Senator Rodney Ellis Files Multiple Criminal Justice Package
(Austin)// -- - Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) filed a number of criminal justice bills to address problems associated with Texas crime labs and other areas of the criminal justice system that have resulted in the conviction of innocent Texans. Senate Bill 223 will establish a Texas Innocence Commission to examine cases of innocent citizens who have been wrongfully convicted, identify the causes of those convictions, and recommend changes in the criminal justice system to prevent such future carriages of injustice. "The bottom line is an Innocence Commission is good law enforcement," said Ellis. "It ensures the protection of the innocent and the conviction of the guilty. I'm all for being tough on crime, but if the state plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build more prisons this session, we can at the very least invest in policies to make sure we are locking up the right people."
Ellis also wants to make sure that once the wrongfully incarcerated are released from prison that the process for restoring their rights is less burdensome and that they are adequately compensated. Procedural hurdles and resistance from the Board of Pardons and Paroles makes it extremely difficult for exonerees to have their rights restored and receive compensation. Senate Bill 227 would simplify the process for exonerees to receive the pardon for innocence required to restore their rights as citizens, and Senate Bill 87 would remove the obstacle of requiring a letter from the prosecuting district attorney before an exonoree can receive compensation. Senate Bill 225 would bring the Texas statute for wrongful imprisonment compensation up to par with the Federal Justice For All Act, which provides reimbursement at a rate of $50,000/year for an individual who has been wrongfully imprisoned and $100,000/year for those wrongfully convicted that served on death row. "It's really a shame that that our state is willing to commit more resources to locking up innocent people than we are willing to invest into helping them put their lives back together. We can't give them back the precious years they were forced to suffer behind bars, but the least we can do is give them the support they need to build a brighter future," Ellis stated.
Senate Bill 228 would allow the Governor to issue multiple reprieves in cases where the guilt of someone scheduled to be executed may be in doubt. "It just makes sense that when situations arise where new evidence becomes available and the guilt of someone about to be executed may be in doubt, as happened with the Houston Crime Lab, that the governor should have the ability to delay an execution until we can be sure that someone is guilty."