Mar 21, 2002
Press Release

Washington, D.C.: Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Congressman Mark Green (R-WI), along with Barry Scheck, National Legal Expert on the Use of DNA in Criminal Proceedings, Debbie Smith, crime victim whose attacker was caught through DNA evidence, Meredith Wagner, Executive Vice-President, Lifetime Television, held a news conference on The Debbie Smith Bill in Washington, D.C. today.

Congresswoman Maloney said, "DNA evidence is our best weapon to fight rapists, but it's not being used effectively. The failure to process DNA evidence quickly and correctly has left thousands of victims without justice. For example, in New York City alone, we have the potential to resolve 16,000 unsolved rape cases if we could just process the 18 month backlog of DNA evidence."

Mr, Scheck said, "The failure to process sexual assault rape kits in unsolved cases is a national scandal. Getting DNA samples processed in 7 to 10 days after a crime should be the most important goal of law enforcement today so that rape and sexual assault cases can be solved."

"Each kit that's thrown away represents a life," said Ms. Smith. "I can't tell you the relief I felt when they told me, 'We have the DNA evidence.' It was the first time in six and a half years I could fell myself breathe."

Lifetime Television, the #1 rated basic cable network, announced an on-line petition drive in support of the Debbie Smith Bill. Their website is www.lifetimetv.com.

The following remarks from Congresswoman Maloney include a description of "The Debbie Smith Bill," as well as national statistics regarding sex assault crimes and the collection of DNA evidence:

DNA legislation news conference, continued:


"Here are the facts and they are awful: First, most hospitals in the United States don't have sufficient facilities or training to collect DNA evidence. For example, only six of more than 60 hospitals across New York city have adequate programs to collect DNA evidence. Ninety-five percent of rape survivors never see a professionally trained examiner. The consequences are an American scandal: In one in five cases where DNA evidence is collected by untrained examiners, the evidence is inadmissible in court.

"Second, there is no standardized evidence kit to collect DNA. That increases the likelihood that DNA evidence will be thrown out. Third, there's a staggering backlog of undocumented DNA precisely because there aren't enough hospital-based evidence programs or enough standardized evidence kits. In New York City alone, the backlog averages 18 months with 16,000 unsolved rape cases pending because DNA evidence is collecting dust. Meanwhile, rapists go free, a gruesome thought when you consider that the average rapist commits 8 to 12 sexual assaults.

"Today I'm proud to support Senator Cantwell's introduction of the Debbie Smith companion in the Senate.

"Here's what the Debbie Smith bill will do:

First, it would provide the funds needed to standardize evidence collection kits for sexual assaults. With the standardization all DNA will be collected in a systematic way. This will expedite the processing which will allow for the DNA evidence to be placed in the FBI Combined DNA Index System database more quickly.

Second, my bill will provide for the training of sexual assault nurse examiners... and training for law enforcement and first responders. This will ensure that the DNA is properly collected and handled so that no evidence will be excluded during trial.

Third, my bill will provide resources to forensic labs to complete the examination of DNA evidence.

And finally, my bill will require that states implement a plan, within 5 years, to complete all DNA evidence testing within 10 days of receipt.



"Mrs. Smith was taken from her home and brutally raped in the woods behind her own home. Her husband, a Williamsburg, Virginia Police Detective, was asleep upstairs. Mrs. Smith was unable to identify the masked man. But DNA, as we know, is better than many eyewitness accounts. DNA doesn't forget, and DNA cannot be intimidated by defense counsel. Three years after Mrs. Smith was raped, DNA helped to put her assailant away. It's time we make DNA work to stop rape and sexual assault across the country."