Senator Ellis Press Release

For Immediate Release
July 16, 2009
Contact: Tina Tran, (512) 463-0113

Innocence Project releases study: Eyewitness ID reforms needed

The Innocence Project of New York issued a report today showing that while eyewitness identification is among the most prevalent and persuasive evidence used in courtrooms, it is prone to errors and is the leading cause of wrongful convictions that have been overturned with DNA testing.

Titled “Reevaluating Lineups: Why Witnesses Make Mistakes and How to Reduce the Chance of a Misidentification,” the report provides an overview of eyewitness misidentification and the problems with traditional eyewitness identification procedures. It explains how to minimize the possibility of misidentification and outlines criminal justice reforms that are proven to reduce inaccurate eyewitness identifications.

"The Innocence Project's report reaffirms the need for eyewitness identification reform in Texas and other states, " said Sen. Ellis. "In Texas, 85 percent of the state's 40 DNA exonerations involved mistaken eyewitness identification. Despite this glaring problem, only 12 percent of Texas law enforcement agencies have any written eyewitness identification procedures. That is simply unacceptable."

Sen. Ellis introduced S.B. 117 in Texas' 2009 legislative session to reform eyewitness identification procedures throughout the state. The legislation unanimously passed the Senate but died in the House. Sen. Ellis also sponsored H.B. 498, which was signed by Gov. Perry and established the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, which is made up of major stakeholders in the criminal justice system. The advisory panel will assist the Task Force on Indigent Defense in investigating the causes of wrongful convictions and issue a report and legislative recommendations by January 1, 2011.

"The Tim Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions needs to consider this new report from the Innocence Project when it begins investigating the causes of wrongful convictions later this year. Obviously eyewitness misidentification is THE major cause of wrongful convictions in Texas and something needs to be done so that the best possible eyewitness identification procedures are implemented by law enforcement agencies throughout this state," said Senator Ellis

The executive summary and full report of “Reevaluating Lineups: Why Witnesses Make Mistakes and How to Reduce the Chance of a Misidentification,” are online at: http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/2080.php.

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