Press Statement
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
April 29, 2008
Contact: Brandon Dudley, 713-236-0306

Senator Rodney Ellis Invites Criminal Justice Experts and Lawmakers to Discuss Reforms at the Texas Capitol to Prevent More Wrongful Convictions

"I first want to offer my condolences to James Lee Woodard for the 27 years he has been forced to suffer in prison for a crime DNA proves he did not commit. I commend Jeff Blackburn and the Innocence Project of Texas for the valuable work they have done to prove Mr. Woodard's innocence.

It would be disturbing enough if Mr. Woodard'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. We have now had more than 30 DNA exonerations in Texas--more than any other state in the nation. These compounding exonerations are clear and convincing evidence that our criminal justice system is broken, and it's time we took the necessary steps, 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.

That's why I am asking criminal justice experts from around the state and both sides of the aisle to come together in the Texas Capitol on May 8th, review these tragic cases, identify what has gone wrong, make recommendations on how to make it right, and prevent these tragedies in the future. I commend those who have already agreed to join me in this effort, and hope that those who have been resistant thus far will have a change of heart.

My hope is that we can come together at the capitol, look at why these tragedies are occurring, agree on real solutions to prevent them from happening again, and take immediate action to fix our broken justice system.

I've fought for legislation to create an innocence commission in the past, but the Texas Legislature has been unwilling to take action. We can't sit idly by any longer. It's time to take action. Texans deserve smart on crime policies they can trust convict the guilty and protect the innocent. It's time for the leaders of this state to ensure that our citizens have a system of justice they can have confidence in -- instilled with the fairness and integrity that justice demands."