Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Congress considers bipartisan Homicide Victims' Families Rights Act

U.S. Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) have introduced the bipartisan Homicide Victims’ Families Rights Act to permit close relatives of homicide victims to request a formal review of the facts and evidence involved in unsolved homicides to determine if new approaches could be taken for investigations under federal jurisdiction.

“Losing a relative to homicide is an unimaginable nightmare, made even worse when nobody is held accountable,” Swalwell said. “With more and more ‘cold cases’ piling up, we can and must do better for victims’ families. Our bill offers another chance to have their loved ones’ cases reviewed, and to get some justice and closure.”

The congressmen invited input from the nonprofit Murder Accountability Project (MAP), which enthusiastically supports the measure. MAP estimates there are more than 250,000 U.S. homicides since 1980 for which no one has been charged. The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Divisions estimates that homicide clearance rates in the United States have steadily declined from 90 percent in the mid-1960s to 62 percent in 2018. The proposed legislation allows family members to request a fresh review by federal law enforcement personnel who were not involved in the original investigation. The bill directs federal law enforcement agencies “to review the case file” and to conduct “a full reinvestigation” if the review discovers “probative investigative leads.” MAP’s Board of Directors unanimously supports the measure as a “best practice” for federal law enforcement and hopes the policy also will be adopted by state and local law enforcement.

To see the official announcement of introduction of this legislation, click here. To read the complete text of the legislation, click here.

Other organizations supporting the measure include: Homicide Family Advocates, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the American Investigative Society of Cold Cases, Parents of Murdered Children, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the National Organization for Victim Assistance, and Ryan Backmann, survivor and founder of Project: Cold Case.