The Senate approved on Saturday long-stalled legislation to expand access to DNA testing for rape victims and prison inmates. The Washington Post says that meeting in a rare weekend session, the Senate approved the DNA bill by voice vote as part of another measure to expand the rights of crime victims. The House agreed to a minor change, also by voice vote. The legislation goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.
The bill seeks to ensure post-conviction access to DNA testing for death row and other inmates who claim innocence, and authorizes $350 million to improve the quality of legal defense in capital cases. It also authorizes $755 million over five years to help clear the backlog of more than 300,000 rape kits and other crime scene evidence awaiting analysis. “This is a groundbreaking crime bill that will allow us to unleash the evidentiary power of DNA,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who, with ranking committee Democrat Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), led the fight for the bill. Leahy called it a “rare example of bipartisan cooperation for a good cause.”