Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lufkin News Editorial: Governor Perry should back innocence commission

More editorial support for an innocence commission in Texas, this time from the Lufkin News ("Serving Justice," May 22):

Gov. Rick Perry says Texas does not need an innocence commission, which, he asserts, would add an unnecessary bureaucracy to state government. But the facts overwhelmingly point the other way. We urge the governor to take another look at establishing a commission that studies ways to bring greater fairness to the state's justice system by examining its mistakes.

Perry's leadership would greatly improve chances that the Legislature would create and finance an innocence commission next year. Also, Perry's backing would send a message to the world that Texas is serious about correcting mistakes that send innocent people to prison and leave criminals on the street.

As it stands, 33 Texans have been exonerated by DNA evidence, all but three occurring after 2000. There have been other exonerations during that period as well, including more than a dozen residents of Tulia who were wrongly convicted on the false testimony of a single law enforcement official and bogus prosecution of a West Texas district attorney.

Texas has paid out more than $8 million since 2001 to dozens of innocent people convicted of and imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit. Those people spent from four to 27 years behind bars for crimes someone else committed.

If those facts and figures aren't persuasive enough, then the governor should listen to those closest to the justice system, including some fellow Republicans. Among those endorsing an innocence commission is Texas Supreme Court Justice Wallace Jefferson, who said, "The state has an interest in protecting its citizens from convictions when citizens are innocent."

"Over 30 people have been exonerated, and there is no institutional response to those incidents," Jefferson said on Tuesday. "When this happens as frequently as it seems to happen in Texas, there ought to be some examination of what went wrong in those cases." ...

If any state needs an innocence commission dedicated to preventing people from being sent to prison for crimes they didn't commit, it is Texas. That much is clear. No one who professes to love justice should be satisfied with the status quo that is stealing time and money from the state and its residents.

As the state's chief executive officer, Perry should use his moral and fiduciary duty to help establish such a commission.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness the Lufin News has the guts to stand up for something that is fair, right and just.

There are so many innocent people in prisons now and if not for the auspicible shape our Criminal Justice Commitee has fallin into, this might not even have become an issue. It is time to clean up this mess and begine today.

Prisons to the Governor are just one big business and he needs to realize the money being wasted by tearing families apart, the judges and unprepared jurors and unspeakable attitudes of prosecutors and some judges have created a monester and the only way to clean the monester is to set term limits and get rid of those who have fallen into the trap of dishonesty and the "I only want to win" trap.

Stop wasting our money by having to transport everyone who is releaed from prison back to Huntsville and hardship this places on families as well as their loved one, money is tight now and this beautiful country is daily becoming more and more subservant to foreign influence. It appears the justic system in Texas has also taken that road.

Gov. Perry, do the right thing and approve the innocence commission, life is to short and everyone deserves the right to have a life.

Granted some will never make it in the outside world, but that too may be our fault. Look around and see what the family structure has become.

Jami said...

Perry just flat never impresses me on any of his stances.

Anonymous said...

I only have one question...did we really expect him to do anything any different. His records is notorious for vetoing bills and anything else that will make the jutice system in Texas better. Any govenor that back building mroe prisions than schools, should let you know what his mind set is and how he feels.

For him it's about keeping the money people happy, not about doing what best for people wrongly convicted by the system, even those that did not commit crimes and let's include those that are having trouble with their monitors and no one will listen even through it states in the proposal from Protech that the monitor don't work in some building and in certain areas and under certain circumstance.

Keep up the good work Rick and continue to prove to people how great Texas is for justice and humanity.