Ellis, Exonerees Urge Quick Legislative Action on Criminal Justice Reforms
Time is running out Cole Advisory Panel recommendations to, improve justice in Texas
(Austin, Texas)—Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and men wrongfully convicted by the state of Texas today urged swift legislative action on Tim Cole Advisory Panel policy recommendations. With time running out on the 82nd Legislative Session, the clock is ticking on critical legislative initiatives such as eyewitness identification reform, expanded DNA-testing, providing health insurance to exonerees, and other recommendations to improve justice in Texas.
"The clock is ticking, said Ellis. "There are less than three weeks left in this session, so further delay is justice denied. We know the problems, we have solutions. Let's stop the delay to prevent these tragedies from happening in the future."
Ellis, Cory and Ruby Session, Johnnie Lindsey, Thomas McGowan, James Giles and Charles Chatman called on the House and Senate to end the delay on several reform efforts, including:
- SB 121 requires all Texas law enforcement agencies in the state to adopt written eyewitness identification policies based on proven best practices by September 1, 2012. The current bill was negotiated or endorsed by DA's, defense lawyers, the police, members of the Texas judiciary, and the Governor's office. According to the national Innocence Project, approximately 75% of the 266 DNA exonerations in the United States have been due to eyewitness misidentification. In Texas, 38 of its 44 DNA wrongful convictions (86%) were largely or exclusively due to incorrect eyewitness identifications.
- SB 122 ensures that if there is DNA evidence available to prove someone's innocence, it can and will be tested. Under existing law, post-conviction DNA testing is often not performed if the DNA was available but not tested at trial. Under existing law, post-conviction DNA testing is often not performed if the issue was not originally raised at trial. Under the current statute, post-conviction DNA tests can be granted only if testing wasn't available at trial, if testing was not technologically capable of proving guilt or innocence, or was not tested through no fault of the convicted person and, should therefore, now be tested in the interests of justice. If the evidence was previously tested and can be subjected to newer testing techniques that could result in a more accurate result, then it can be ordered to be tested again.
- SB 1686 would allow exonerees who have received compensation from the state for their wrongful conviction to also be entitled to group health benefit plan coverage through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
- HB 417, which would help ensure that attorney fees for exonerees' compensation claims are not excessive. I am working on revisions to the bill so that individuals like Anthony Graves and others can get the compensation they so rightly deserve.
"Eyewitness reform, expanded DNA-testing and providing health insurance to those wrongfully convicted and these other initiatives are simple, straightforward changes to help create a smarter, more just system," Ellis said. "We must act now, or justice delayed will be justice denied."