H. R. 3359
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
May 19, 2021
Mr. Swalwell (for himself and Mr. McCaul) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
To provide for a system for reviewing the case files of cold case murders at the instance of certain persons, and for other purposes.
This Act may be cited as the
Homicide Victims’ Families’ Rights Act of 2021.
Case File Review
An applicable agency shall review the case file regarding a cold case murder upon written application by a designated person to determine if a full reinvestigation would result in probative investigative leads.
The case file review shall include—
an analysis of what investigative steps or follow-up steps may have been missed in the initial investigation;
an assessment of whether witnesses should be interviewed or reinterviewed;
an examination of physical evidence to see if all appropriate forensic testing and analysis was performed in the first instance or if additional testing might produce information relevant to the investigation; and
a modernization of the file to bring it up to current investigative standards to the extent it would help develop probative leads.
The person or persons doing the review required by subsection (a) shall not have previously investigated the murder at issue.
The applicable agency shall confirm in writing receipt of the request provided for under subsection (a).
Prohibition on multiple concurrent reviews
Only one case review shall be undertaken at any one time with respect to the same cold case murder victim.
No later than six months after the receipt of the written application submitted pursuant to subsection (a), the applicable agency shall conclude its case file review and reach a conclusion about whether or not a full reinvestigation under section 5 is warranted.
The applicable agency may extend the limit in subsection (f) for periods of time not to exceed six months if said agency makes a finding that the number of case files to be reviewed make it impracticable to comply with said limit without unreasonably taking resources from other law enforcement activities.
Actions Subsequent to Waiver
For cases for which the time limit in subsection (f) is extended, the applicable agency shall provide notice and an explanation of its reasoning to the designated person who filed the written application pursuant to this section.
Each agency shall develop a written application to be used for designated persons to request a case file review under section 2.
Each agency shall provide notice of the rights under this Act to designated persons as soon as is reasonable after being made aware of a murder.
The applicable agency shall conduct a full reinvestigation of the cold case murder at issue if the review of the case file required by section 2 concludes that a full reinvestigation of such cold case murder would result in would result in probative investigative leads.
A full reinvestigation shall include analyzing all evidence regarding the cold case murder at issue for the purpose of developing probative investigative leads as to the perpetrator.
The person or persons doing the full reinvestigation required by subsection (a) shall not have previously investigated the murder at issue, except for the case file review pursuant to section 2.
Prohibition on Multiple Concurrent Reviews
Only one full reinvestigation shall be undertaken at any one time with respect to the same cold case murder victim.
Consultation and updates
The applicable agency shall consult with the designated person who filed the written application pursuant to section 2 and provide him or her with periodic updates during the case file review and full reinvestigation.
Explanation of Conclusion
The applicable agency shall meet with the designated person and discuss the evidence to explain to the designated person who filed the written application pursuant to section 2 its decision whether or not to engage in the full reinvestigation provided for under section 5 at the conclusion of the case file review.
Case file review
If a case file review is done and a conclusion is reached not to conduct a full reinvestigation, no additional case file review shall be undertaken for a period of five years, unless there is newly discovered, materially significant evidence.
If a full reinvestigation is done and a suspect is not identified at its conclusion, no additional case file review or full reinvestigation shall be undertaken for a period of five years, unless there is newly discovered, materially significant new evidence.
Beginning three years after enactment of this Act, the National Institute of Justice shall publish annually statistics on the number of cold cases.
Manner of Publication
The statistics published pursuant to subsection (a) shall, at a minimum, be broken down by the type of crime and agency.
Procedures to promote compliance
Not later than one year after the date of enactment of this Act, the head of each Federal agency shall promulgate regulations to enforce the rights of designated persons and to ensure compliance by responsible officials with the obligations described in this Act.
The regulations promulgated under subsection (a) shall—
designate an administrative authority within the agency to receive and investigate complaints relating to the provision or violation of the rights of designated persons;
require a course of training for employees and offices of agencies within the agency regarding the rights under this Act;
contain disciplinary sanctions, including suspension or termination from employment, for employees of the agency who willfully or wantonly fail to comply with this Act;
establish a process for investigations into the conduct of those no longer employed by the Federal Government when a complaint is filed and a process for referrals of recommended sanctions with respect to such conduct to the appropriate State bar or other licensing body; and
provide that the head of the agency, or the designee thereof, shall be the final arbiter of the complaint, and that there shall be no judicial review of the final decision of the head of the agency by a complainant.
Nothing in this Act shall require an agency to provide information that would endanger the safety of any person, unreasonably impede an ongoing investigation, violate a court order, or violate legal obligations regarding privacy.
If there is more than one possible applicable agency, each applicable agency shall coordinate their case file review or full reinvestigation such that there is only one joint case file review or full reinvestigation occuring at a time in compliance with section 2(e) or 5(d) as applicable.
If an immediate family member believes there was bias demonstrated in the handling of the initial case, any case file review, or any full reinvestigation by any of the possible applicable agencies, said family member may communicate that concern to the Attorney General. The Attorney General shall review the allegations made by the immediate family member to determine if, in the interest of justice, another agency should conduct the case file review or full reinvestigate, as applicable.
This Act applies in the case of any murder occurring on or after January 1, 1970.
In this Act:
The term designated person means an immediate family member or someone similarly situated as defined by the Department of Justice.
The term immediate family member means a parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandparent-in-law, sibling, spouse, child, or step-child of a murder victim.
The term victim means a natural person who died as a result of a murder.
The term murder means any criminal offense under section 1111(a) of title 18, United States Code, or any offense the elements of which are substantially identical to such section.
The term agency means a Federal law enforcement entity that is engaged in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of murder under Federal law.
The term applicable agency means an agency that is investigating or had investigated the murder of a victim.
The term cold case means a violent crime under Federal law committed more than three years prior, for which all probative investigative leads have been exhausted, and for which no likely perpetrator has been identified.
The term cold case murder means a murder committed more than three years prior, for which all probative investigative leads have been exhausted, and for which no likely perpetrator has been identified.
Each applicable agency shall submit an annual report to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the House Committee on the Judiciary describing actions taken and results achieved under this Act during such year.
The report described in the preceding subsection shall include the number of written applications filed pursuant to section 2, the number of extensions granted and an explanation of reasons provided under section 2(g), the number of full reinvestigations initiated and closed pursuant to section 5, the number of suspects identified, arrested, charged, and convicted for the cold case murder investigated under the Act.