Cornyn Shepherds Debbie Smith Act to Test Untested Rape Kits Through Senate

In: All News   Posted 12/17/2019

Bill Heads to President’s Desk to Become Law

WASHINGTON– Today on the floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) called up and passed the Debbie Smith Act of 2019. Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s floor remarks are below, and video can be found here.

“Since 2004, the Debbie Smith Act has been the guiding force behind our nation's effort to eliminate the rape kit backlog.”

“Since 2011, the Debbie Smith Act has helped Texas, my state, alone reduce its backlog of unsubmitted rape kits by approximately 90 percent.”

“The Debbie Smith Act of 2019 will reauthorize the important funding that supports testing this DNA evidence so we can continue to reduce and eliminate the rape kit backlog and ensure that it will not grow again in the future.”

“This legislation also supports important training for law enforcement, correctional personnel, forensic nurses who are the ones who actually collect the DNA evidence using these forensic kits, as well as other professionals who assist victims of sexual assault.”

“I appreciate all of the advocates who have fought tirelessly with us at every step of the way to bring us to this moment.”

“This legislation would not have been possible without its namesake, Debbie Smith, and the countless other survivors, people like Lavinia Masters, Carol Bart, and others, who continue to lend their voice to this fight.”

“If you've not had the chance to meet a survivor and hear their stories, you must, because the survivors I’ve met and worked with over the years in Texas, they are truly inspiring, and I am glad we can get this bill finally passed on their behalf.”

The Debbie Smith Crime Victims Protection Act reauthorizes the Debbie Smith Act to continue the testing of DNA evidence, including rape kits, from unsolved crimes nationwide, DNA training and education for law enforcement, correctional personnel, and court officers, and the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Program, which supports forensic nurse training throughout the country. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Josh Hawley (R-MO) are original cosponsors.

Background on the Debbie Smith Act:

The Debbie Smith Act was originally signed into law in 2004 to provide local and state crime laboratories resources to end the backlog of untested DNA evidence from unsolved crimes, analyze DNA samples, and increase the capacity to process DNA in order to guard against future backlogs. Since it became law, more than 641,000 DNA cases have been processed. In addition to crime scene evidence, Debbie Smith funds are also utilized to process offender DNA samples to ensure evidence from unsolved crimes can be matched against a database of known offenders, similar to the criminal fingerprint databases.