Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
Monday, January 22, 2007
Contact: Jeremy Warren, 512-463-0113

Ellis Files Legislation to Create Texas Innocence Commission, Boost Compensation of Wrongly Convicted

Legislation will create independent body to review wrongful convictions and recommend policy changes, increase compensation to those wrongfully imprisoned

AUSTIN -- Pointing to the recent exonerations of James Waller and Larry Fuller in Dallas and the continuing need to reform Texas, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today filed separate legislation to create a Texas Innocence Commission and to boost compensation for those who have been wrongfully convicted.

Senator Ellis, who serves on the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee and chairs the Innocence Project, filed SB 262 to boost compensation for those wrongfully convicted, and SB 263 to create an independent commission to examine cases where 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 miscarriages of justice. Ellis filed similar legislation in 2005.

"Enough is enough," said Ellis. "Day after day, week after week, we learn of more innocent Texans who have had their lives torn from them in tragic error. It is time for Texas to create an Innocence Commission to launch in-depth investigations each time an innocent person is wrongfully convicted, review what went wrong in these cases, why, and spell out the changes necessary to ensure these injustices are not repeated."

According to the Innocence Project, a non-profit legal clinic and criminal justice legal resource center in New York, 192 people nationwide have been cleared through DNA testing after they were convicted. In Texas 24 men have been exonerated by DNA testing. Twelve of those cases have come out of Dallas County in the past five years.

In boosting compensation for the wrongfully convicted, Senator Ellis urged Texas to adopt the new federal standard. Currently, the Texas law allows for compensation for wrongful imprisonment of $25,000/year with a cap of $500,000/ year. Texas needs to bring the amount of compensation up to par with the Federal Justice for All Act of 2004 for innocent Texans who have been wrongfully convicted. The victims of wrongful incarceration would be eligible for $50,000/year of incarceration and $100,000/year served on death row, with no cap.

"We need to do more to help these Texans rebuild their shattered lives," said Ellis. "Money will obviously not make up for the past, but Texas can help these people move forward by boosting compensation for those who have been wrongfully imprisoned to the federal standard."

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