Saturday, February 24, 2007

Plenty of innocent names to attach to amendment for Jessica's Law

When the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee passed HB 8 (their version of "Jessica's Law") without any amendments or changes, I thought they missed a big opportunity. Four of the nine committee members are from Dallas, where just weeks before, James Waller was released after spending 24 years in prison based on a false allegation of child molestation.

Why not use this legislation as a vehicle to make sure such a thing doesn't happen again?

What would have prevented Mr. Waller's wrongful conviction? For starters, given what social science now can prove about the relative unreliability of eyewitness testimony, the lack of corroboration required for victim testimony in these cases invites horrific mistakes. Here's how I think the Code of Criminal Procedure should be amended on the House floor (the amendment is underlined, the rest is the existing code):
Art. 38.07. TESTIMONY IN CORROBORATION OF VICTIM OF SEXUAL OFFENSE. (a) A conviction under Chapter 21, Section 22.011, or Section 22.021, Penal Code, is supportable on the uncorroborated testimony of the victim of the sexual offense if it is established that the victim previously knew the defendant, and if the victim informed any person, other than the defendant, of the alleged offense within one year after the date on which the offense is alleged to have occurred.
(b) The requirement that the victim inform another person of an alleged offense does not apply if at the time of the alleged offense the victim was a person:
(1) 17 years of age or younger;
(2) 65 years of age or older; or
(3) 18 years of age or older who by reason of age or physical
or mental disease, defect, or injury was substantially unable to satisfy the person's need for food, shelter, medical care, or protection from harm.
Call it the James Waller Amendment. Or James Giles, if you like. And if after all that's happened with more than a dozen recent exonerations someone from Dallas won't carry it, I'd think that's pretty disappointing.

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Anonymous said...

I especially like the mention where the Judge should not let the fact be know she/he feels the person is gulity or innocent. You would be surprised how this effects the jury and the person who is on trial for something they in their hearts know never happened and the spouse or significant other is lying.

In Texas the rule of thumb has become you are guilty before you have the opportunity to prove your innocence. The attitude of the Judge makes a huge impact on the whole court room. Women Judges seem to be the worse, especially when another woman or child is involved and this is wrong. We have far too many Judges, too many lawyers who are just out for the almighty buck and the Judges and DA's just want to score a win regardless of what happens to the person on trial and their families the impact this has on all of them.

Legislator's pay attention, we are tired of the same old same old "lockem' up and throw away the key" attitude of the Texas Judicial System. Time to change a lot of things including some of the Judges!!!

Anonymous said...

I do have to agree with the above comment.

I know of a SO. He is actually a family memeber and is a low level offender.

When going to court I was in the the court room for support and it was amazing. The judge walked in said what the offense was. The lawyers wanted a lesser sentence because he hasn't had a record before, just the usual speeding ticket or parking tickets.
The judge, male, looked at the case and said that a plea deal is 10yr. probation, followed with 160hr of communitiy service, with SO counselling 3yrs. And to pay all court costs, which are 3grand. All within 10mins.

Having had no offenses at all in his background our family still cant believe that this punishment is suited for a person like he is. Thank God he has a family, wife, and friends that support him.