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Public Statements

Justice for All Act of 2004

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


JUSTICE FOR ALL ACT OF 2004 -- (House of Representatives - October 06, 2004)

(BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT)

Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, as a co-sponsor of the Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act of 2003, which passed overwhelmingly in the House in November 2003, I rise in strong support of the bill on the floor today, the Justice For All Act, which I am also proud to be an original co-sponsor of.

At the outset I want to compliment my colleague, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Delahunt). From the very beginning we spoke about this bill, two former prosecutors, and while I had been focused mainly on the power of DNA to solve unsolved crimes, to go after violent felons who still walk the streets, my good friend, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Delahunt), made the equally compelling point that DNA evidence has the power to exonerate those charged with the most serious crimes, to exonerate those on death row even; as has been proved the case, not merely calling into question evidence in an original trial, but rather proving conclusively the innocence of people who faced the ultimate penalty.

The DNA database improvements in this bill will help solve countless crimes and also exonerate innocent individuals wrongly imprisoned.

As a former prosecutor, I have witnessed the powerful force that DNA profiles have in solving crimes. The FBI's DNA database contains around 2 million DNA profiles and has yielded thousands of matches in criminal investigations, but thousands of additional matches can and should be made. For this reason I worked on legislation last year to increase the effectiveness of DNA databases. This legislation was aimed at replicating on a nationwide basis the tremendous State successes in solving crimes using DNA.

States have taken the lead in expanding DNA and crime-solving efforts. For example, in Virginia those efforts have yielded tremendous results with forensics officials making over a thousand cold hits, finally providing resolution to a great number of unsolved crimes. The legislation before us today makes important changes in Federal law in order to replicate these tremendous successes on a nationwide basis. These additional tools will provide additional database searching capabilities for Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies, helping to solve thousands of cold cases including unsolved murders and unsolved rape cases.

In addition, the authorization of much needed funding to eliminate the current backlog of unanalyzed DNA samples in the Nation's crime labs and the important Innocents Protection Provision will help ensure that inmates have access to DNA testing to establish their innocence.

I am pleased the House of Representatives is poised to approve these changes in a bipartisan fashion, and I hope this legislation will be approved by the Congress as a whole and quickly enacted into law.

In conclusion, I want to again thank my colleague, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Delahunt), for his pioneering efforts on the Innocents Protection Act for bringing really to this body an awareness of the power of DNA to exonerate those who have been wrongly convicted of the most devastating cases facing the ultimate penalty. We could not have more important work before this body.

I want to compliment the commitment of the chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner), for his superlative leadership in this legislation, without which we would not be here on the floor today.

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