Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
February 20, 2007
Contact: Jeremy Warren, 512-463-0113

Ellis Praises Chief Justice Jefferson's Call for a Texas Innocence Commission

Ellis legislation will create independent body to review wrongful convictions

AUSTIN -- Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today praised Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson for calling on the legislature to create a Texas Innocence Commission. Chief Justice Jefferson made the call for a Texas Innocence Commission during his biennial State of the Judiciary speech before a joint session of the legislature.

Senator Ellis, a long-time proponent of such legislation and Chair of the Innocence Project in New York, praised the chief justice for his outspoken leadership on this issue.

"I am extremely pleased that Chief Justice Jefferson made the call for an independent Texas Innocence Commission," said Ellis. "More and more criminal justice leaders realize that we can no longer wait to enact this crucial reform. The bottom line is that we have got to get the right person and, when we don't, we need to find out what went wrong."

Senator Ellis, has filed 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.

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