Senator Rodney Ellis Concerning the DNA Exoneration of Steven Phillips and the First Meeting of the Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit
"I offer my condolences to Steven Phillips for the 25 years he has been forced to suffer in prison for a crime DNA proves he did not commit. I commend the Innocence Project for the valuable work they have done to prove Mr. Phillips' innocence and District Attorney Watkins for taking swift action in this case.
It would be disturbing enough if Mr. Phillips' 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. This is the 34th DNA exoneration 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.
I've fought for legislation to create an innocence commission in the past, but the Texas Legislature has been unwilling to take action. Tomorrow morning at 10:30a.m. in the chambers of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals marks the inaugural meeting of the Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit formed by Justice Barbara Hervey and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. I hope the Unit will review these tragic cases, identify what has gone wrong, and propose meaningful remedies to right these obvious wrongs and prevent these tragedies in the future. We can't sit idly by any longer. 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 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."