Markups & Meetings

2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Chairman Bob Goodlatte

Last week I, along with my colleague from California, Ms. Bass, introduced H.R. 4323, the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2014.  This Act reauthorizes the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, which is set to expire at the end of this fiscal year, for an additional five years.  I would like to thank Ranking Member Conyers, Crime Subcommittee Chairman Sensenbrenner and Ranking Member Scott for joining as original co-sponsors of this important legislation.  I would also like to acknowledge the efforts made by the Gentlelady from New York, Ms. Maloney, in authoring the original Debbie Smith legislation and thank her for her continued support.

This program was originally authorized as part of the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000.  In 2004, it was renamed the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program after rape survivor and victims’ rights advocate Debbie Smith.

In 1989, Debbie Smith was kidnapped from her home while her husband, a police officer, was sleeping upstairs.  She was dragged into the woods behind her Williamsburg, Virginia home and raped.  After the sexual assault, she lived with paralyzing fear that her unknown attacker would return to further harm her or her family.

This fear would remain with her for over six years, until her attacker’s DNA sample was finally removed from the state’s backlog and included in the national DNA database.  A suspect was identified immediately and subsequently convicted and imprisoned for his crimes.

With the goal of eliminating the backlog of untested DNA samples, the Debbie Smith program awards grants to state and local governments to fund the collection of samples, increased laboratory capacity, and DNA analysis in a timely and appropriate manner.  Additionally, funds are awarded to provide training, technical assistance and education to law enforcement officials, court officers, corrections personnel, and forensic science and medical professionals.

There can be no dispute regarding the effectiveness of DNA evidence in criminal investigations and prosecutions.  As of January 2014, use of the FBI’s National DNA Index has provided important assistance in more than 224,000 investigations.

Unfortunately, demand for testing continues to outpace the capacity of state and local governments to collect and analyze DNA samples.  In 2011, laboratories processed 10% more forensic DNA cases than in 2009; however, backlogs increased as demand grew by 16% during the same period, illustrating the need for continued support of this vital program.

I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation reauthorizing the Debbie Smith program to continue reduction of DNA backlogs nationwide.

Without objection, Debbie Smith’s letter in support of H.R. 4323, dated March 27, 2014, shall be made a part of the record.

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