Innoc. Protection Act to Be Introduced

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have agreed upon a compromise version of the Innocence Protection Act. It will be introduced today, along with a "Debbie Smith Act", in a bill called the Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act. While $1 billion has been earmarked for the bill, it's important to note that $745 million goes to the Debbie Smith Act for DNA testing of old rape kits. There's a big backlog of those and Bush wants to get them entered into the Central DNA database. The remaining $245 million will be split among other things like free DNA testing to inmates with innocence claims, provided they meet certain criteria, grants to states to use for training lawyers in capital cases, increasing compensation limits for federal death row inmates who have been wrongfully imprisoned, and perhaps some others. A portion of the $245 will also go to states to help them pay for the added DNA testing.

The bills introduced in 2000 and 2001 had stronger protections for the innocent and for those facing capital trials. If you would like to compare them, here is S. 2073, the Innocence Protection Act introduced in Feb. 2000, and here is S. 486, the 2001 version of the Bill.

The final bill will be out sometime Wednesday, and we'll link to it when we come across it.

The current bill will lack some of the important features of its predecessors, but it is still a bill worth pushing for. While not a solution, it's a welcome step in the right direction.

Also, credit where credit is due: Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and Sen. Patrick Lehay (D-VT) worked tirelessly to get this legislation passed for five years. With over 265 sponsors in the last Congress, some Republicans wouldn't budge and stymied the whole deal. After lengthy negotiations with Sensenbrenner and Hatch, some of the more vocal opponents of the bill, a deal was hammered out. It's as good as it's gonna get right now, and its worthy of support. It's also just a beginning. We have nothing but praise for those who worked so hard on behalf of the innocent imprisoned to get this through.

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