Statement of Senator Rodney Ellis Concerning the Possible Exoneration of Charles Chatman
"I offer my condolences to Charles Chatman for the 27 years he has been forced to suffer in prison for a crime he did not commit, and I commend the Texas Innocence Project for the valuable work they have done to prove Mr. Chatman's innocence, and District Attorney Watkins and Judge Cruezot for taking action in this case.
"It would be disturbing enough if Mr. Chatman's case was an isolated incident, but the unfortunate reality is the discovery of wrongful convictions is becoming increasingly frequent in a state that already leads the nation in this shameful statistic. These compounding exonerations are clear and convincing evidence that our criminal justice system is broken, and it's time we took the steps necessary to find out why it's broken and what we need to do to fix it. In no other sphere of public policy would rational people see this many disasters and not be willing to pull together a panel of experts to ask what went wrong and what can be learned from those tragic mistakes to prevent them from happening again.
I've fought for legislation to create an innocence commission in the past, and I'll continue advocate for criminal justice experts to come together and review these tragic cases and make recommendations on how to prevent these tragedies in the future. It's time for the leaders of this state to come together and to take the necessary steps to ensure that our citizens have a system of justice they can have confidence in and is instilled with the fairness and integrity that justice demands. Texans need smart on crime policies to convict the guilty and protect the innocent.
But if state leadership continues to drag its feet on these issues, refusing to make a serious effort to find solutions to the flaws in our criminal justice system, while innocent victims lives are wasting away in prison for crimes they did not commit, myself and others in the state need to step forward and take action."