From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
June 21, 1999
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Indigent Criminal Defense Bill Vetoed

"I am very disappointed that Governor Bush vetoed Senate Bill 247, which would have strengthened Texas' indigent criminal defense system. This bill represented a modest but important step in the right direction towards reforming a system that desperately needs modernization.

"The harsh reality is that poor defendants get a poor defense in our current system -- they have no lobbyists or natural constituency. It is scatter-shot, inefficient, and not accountable to anyone. If we are going to lead the world in incarcerations and executions, then we should at least make sure that defendants are guaranteed effective legal representation.

"All of us benefit from public confidence in and support of the integrity and fairness of the criminal defense system. The size of a defendant's bank account should not determine the quality of justice that defendant receives, but too often that is the case. This new law would have been a major step toward restoring and enhancing public trust in the system.

"I understand that Governor Bush was contacted by many judges in Texas who asked him to veto the bill. But I am eager to work with all interested parties, including judges, to improve, enhance and instill confidence in the indigent criminal defense system in Texas."

"Justice is on trial in Texas and the policy discussion may have to be resolved in a courthouse instead of the legislature."