Senate Passes Ellis Bill to Create Texas Innocence Commission
Will create independent body to review wrongful convictions, recommend policy changes
AUSTIN -- By a vote of 25-6, the Texas Senate today passed legislation by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) to create a Texas Innocence Commission. The legislation, SB 263, will now go to the Texas House for consideration.
Senate Bill 263 will 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.
"Today is an historic day for reform in Texas," 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, 198 people nationwide have been cleared through DNA testing after they were convicted. In Texas 28 men have been exonerated by DNA testing. Fourteen of those cases have come out of Dallas County in the past five years.
"The advent of DNA has helped right wrongs -- often far too late -- but we as a state need to do much more to find out the causes of these miscarriages of justice and implement changes to prevent them from happening again."