Chairman Nadler Statement for the Markup of H.R. 3359, the Homicide Victims' Families' Rights Act of 2021
Washington, December 8, 2021
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during the markup of H.R. 3359, the Homicide Victims' Families' Rights Act of 2021:
"H.R. 3359, the 'Homicide Victims’ Families’ Rights Act of 2021,' would give family members of murder victims the right, under federal law, to request a review of their loved ones’ case files when the case has gone cold after three years.
"Although the vast majority of murders are investigated at the state and local level, this legislation will help address this country’s crisis of unsolved murders. The backlog of cold case murders continues to grow nationally as the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report shows the national clearance rate has declined from approximately 90 percent in 1965 to 61 percent in 2019. Low clearance rates lead to low confidence in law enforcement and reduced citizen cooperation, which lead to even lower clearance rates.
"This means that thousands of murderers evade prosecution and continue to walk the streets, able to commit more crimes, and possibly more murders, while thousands of mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters have yet to find closure in the loss of their loved ones.
"Solving cold case murders can also prevent additional violence and cyclical unsolved crime. For example, in some cases an unsolved murder results in vigilante justice, a lack of community cooperation in apprehending the perpetrator, and yet another unsolved crime.
"Under this legislation, upon application by an eligible family member, a cold case would receive an independent review by someone who did not work on the original investigation. If an initial review of the case file determines that it would develop probative investigative leads or a likely perpetrator, the agency would then undertake a full reinvestigation of the case.
"A fresh set of eyes, new vigor, and application of testing that was not available at the time of the initial investigation can reveal novel information helpful to identifying new evidence, new witnesses to interview, or previously known witnesses to interview again.
"Importantly, the bill would also require the investigating agency to provide the applying family member with periodic updates throughout the investigation process.
"This legislation would result in more closed cases, justice for victims, closure for their families, and greater faith in law enforcement.
"We must do better for all families of murdered victims. Therefore, I hope this bill will serve as a model for state, local, and tribal governments to adopt so that all families of victims can seek justice for their loved ones and themselves.
"H.R. 3359 will empower the families of murder victims, keep them involved in the investigative process as it progresses, and assure them and their communities that investigators are working to bring them justice and keep them safe.
"This bipartisan legislation represents an important step in fostering renewed hope for families and is supported by a broad array of advocates, including the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys."I commend our colleague, Representative Eric Swalwell, for his work on this legislation, together with the lead Republican cosponsor, Representative Mike McCaul, and I urge all of my colleagues on the Committee to support this bill today."