Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Contact: Mike Lavigne, (512) 463-0113

Major Habeas Corpus Reform Bill Wins Approval

Austin, TX// Senate Bill 1224 by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) passed second reading in the Texas Senate this afternoon. SB 1224 will ensure that death row inmates are afforded one full and fair opportunity to have their habeas corpus and unfairness claims heard by the courts.

"This legislation will help to ease some of the fears that Texans have about our criminal justice system," said Senator Ellis. "Anything we can do to ensure that defendants have access to competent council is good for the system."

SB 1224 moves the appointment of counsel in habeas cases from the Court of Criminal Appeals to the Task Force on Indigent Defense. The Task Force will also establish standards for those lawyers eligible for appointment.

"I worked with the prosecution and defense bar to devise this solution," explained Senator Ellis. "The final product is a compromise that is good for justice in Texas."

The compromise language in the bill outlines the criteria that the Task Force should consider in developing the standards. Additionally, the bill provides a standard on which a defendant who has incompetent counsel can be given an opportunity to have a subsequent writ.

The Task Force on Indigent Defense is comprised of thirteen members. Eight of the members are a mix of designated elected officials and judges. The remaining five members are selected by the Governor.

SB 1224 is expected to win final approval by the Senate tomorrow.

Additional information on the Task Force may be found at: http://www.courts.state.tx.us/tfid/TaskForceMembers2003.htm

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