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Debbie Smith, who waited six years for DNA evidence to identify the man who raped her, burst into tears Thursday when a Senate committee delayed a vote on DNA testing legislation. A vote on the bill will not come until Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The five-year, $1 billion measure would provide greater access to DNA testing for rape cases and convicted felons who claim innocence. “I just want to see it happen,” Smith said as Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and the committee chairman, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, hugged her. Hatch urged senators to avoid amendments, pass the bill and work out a compromise before it goes to the full Senate, where there is broad support. But he warned that more concessions may be needed or opponents could block a final Senate vote. Leahy said proponents have made concessions in negotiations with the House, which has passed the bill. “The more time is wasted, the more tragedy there is,” he said. “This will help catch and prosecute the guilty and protect the innocent.” Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said the bill will limit the use of DNA testing and would force crime victims to endure a flood of frivolous appeals from inmates. He offered one amendment to address those concerns, and it was rejected. The bill would provide grants to clear the backlog of some 350,000 untested DNA samples in rape evidence kits nationwide. Smith, a Williamsburg, Va., resident, was raped in 1989. Her attacker was found in 1995 after a DNA sample from a prison inmate matched one taken from evidence from her case. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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