Innocence Blog

Reform Bills Fail to Pass in Texas

Posted: June 2, 2009 3:41 pm



Several bills intended to prevent wrongful convictions in Texas were left unpassed when the Texas legislature ended its session yesterday. Although Gov. Rick Perry recently signed an improvement to the state law compensating the exonerated, several bills addressing the causes of wrongful convictions didn’t make it that far.

Proposed laws included an expansion to DNA testing access and reforms requiring recorded interrogation and improved eyewitness identification procedures. These reforms have been proven around the country to prevent wrongful convictions and to help law enforcement agencies apprehend the real perpetrators of crimes.

Another reform that wasn’t passed yesterday would have made posthumous pardons possible in cases like that of Tim Cole, who died in prison in 1999 while serving for a crime he didn’t commit.

His conviction relied heavily on mistaken identification by the victim, who earlier this year came out supporting efforts to clear Cole's name.
His family described an emotional welcome from legislators in February. Cole's mother, Ruby Session and his youngest brother, Cory, spent months lobbying for the reforms - Cory logged 14,000 miles and three blown tires as he traveled from Fort Worth to Austin to testify and lobby.

"We had everything in place," Cory said. "We really did have it, and it would have been sweeping changes."

Read the full story here. (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 06/02/09)
And Innocence Project of Texas Policy Director Scott Henson wrote on his blog Grits for Breakfast about his disappointment that the state may have to wait two years for these critical reforms.
We didn't need more study by the Legislature on this issue, we needed action. Eyewitness ID errors make up 80% of DNA exoneration cases and the Court of Criminal Appeals' Criminal Justice Integrity Unit said it should be the Legislature's highest priority for preventing false convictions. But unless the issue is added to a call in a special session, at least two more years will pass before the Lege can begin to rectify the problem.

That's inexcusable. It's not okay for the Legislature to know that innocent people are being convicted under the statutes they've written and simply decline to prevent it.

Read Henson’s post here. (Grits for Breakfast, 06/01/09)
New York is in dire need of similar reforms, and we asked supporters in the state yesterday to reach out to lawmakers urging them to ensure that New York State passes these critical measures before the end of the session. If you’re in New York, send a copy here.

If you’re outside of New York, we ask you to reach out to your lawmakers to tell them reforms to prevent wrongful convictions are important to you. Find out about the laws in your state here and then find your representative’s contact information here.




Tags: Timothy Cole