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A long-awaited bill that would require post-conviction DNA testing for anyone sentenced to death who proclaims their innocence has passed from the Judiciary Committee to the U.S. Senate where proponents hope it will be passed this session.

The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed similar legislation last year, but the Senate version has been stalled in committee until yesterday's 11-7 bipartisan vote. The legislation is an attempt address issues regarding the fairness and accuracy of the death penalty.

The bill would provide about $1.3 billion over five years to provide post-conviction DNA testing in all federal cases, grants for states to provide similar testing, funding for states to improve the quality of legal counsel in capital cases, and help states address a huge backlog of unprocessed DNA crime samples.

There are an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 rape kits around the U.S. that have never been processed due to a lack of funds, proponents of the bill reported.

If the Senate passes the bill, differences between the Senate and House versions will have to be worked out in committee before it becomes law.

See Reuters: Senate Committee Passes DNA Crime Bill

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