DNA legislation signed into law
Tuesday, November 2, 2004
WASHINGTON -- Rape victims and felons in prison will have greater access to DNA testing under a five-year, $1 billion program signed into law by President Bush.
The law, worked out in the final days of the congressional session that ended last month, ensures access to post-conviction DNA tests for those serving prison sentences, including prisoners on death row. It provides $775 million in grants over the next five years to clear the backlog of some 350,000 untested DNA samples in rape evidence kits.
It also provides another $350 million to improve legal representation in death penalty cases.
"Think of the human costs when an innocent person is executed or spends long years in jail," said Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., a main author of the bill. "Imagine the scars when a victim waits years to know the identity of their assailant. We are not talking about hypothetical scenarios. We are talking about real people, ordinary Americans facing the most extreme miscarriages of justice."
Bush signed the legislation Saturday.
In recent years, 111 people in 25 states have been released after spending years on death row for crimes they did not commit. Testing also has led to more than 50 convictions of the real perpetrators.