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Senate Judiciary Passes DNA Bill

July 18, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Senate committee on Thursday approved a bill to ensure death row inmates have access to DNA evidence and better lawyers.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill by a 12-7 vote.

``Our bill is not a cure-all for the criminal justice system, or even for the capital punishment system, but it is a very good bill,″ Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said.

Under the bill, called the Innocence Protection Act, federal inmates could apply for DNA testing to support a claim that they did not commit any federal crime for which they were convicted or any other offense used in determining their sentences. States would be prohibited from denying death row inmates a chance to prove their innocence through DNA tests.

Since the Supreme Court allowed states to reinstate capital punishment 26 years ago, 101 people have been released from death rows after their convictions were overturned, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The bill now goes to the full Senate. Similar bills have been filed in the House.

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