Governor Rick Perry: Opposes an innocence commission because it creates a new layer of "bureaucracy."
Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst "said he supports creating a commission. His staff said he has cleared the way for a Senate interim study committee to look into the commission's charge."
House Speaker Tom Craddick: Neutral, expects the 81st Lege to debate the issue.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson: Supportive, is "calling on state lawmakers to find money" for an innocence commission.
Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller: Qualified support.
Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire: Expressed support at recent "innocence summit." Sen. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) also spoke favorably of the idea at the event.
House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Chairman Aaron Peña: Publicly supportive, but his Democrat-dominated committee deep sixed Sen. Ellis' innocence commission bill in 2007.
Texas District and County Attorneys Association: Opposed. Said lobbyist Shannon Edmonds of his membership, "They don't trust the people pushing it, and we need to overcome that to make progress in this area." (Hmmm, I thought Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins supported the idea and numbered among Edmonds' membership. Apparently DAs don't even trust one another!)
I actually understand the Governor's concerns about creating a new layer of bureaucracy. This idea could be a great success or an abject bust depending on how the commission's role is defined, who's on it, and what authority it's granted. One one hand, there are entire categories of old cases like arson that require systematic review. OTOH, if the commission is not empowered to liberate the innocent and can only "recommend" reforms, that wouldn't necessarily do much.
That said, if the Governor and innocence commission critics accept that Texas has a problem with convicting innocent people, that stance IMO then obligates them to support procedural reforms that might prevent such travesties on the front end. The Justice Project has identified eight key reforms that grow out of the examples of recently exonerated people. Most require no new bureaucracy at all:
- Improving Eyewitness Identification Procedures
- Electronic Recording of Custodial Interrogations
- Improving Standards for Admissibility of Snitch Testimony
- Expanding Discovery in Criminal Cases
- Improving Forensic Evidence Testing Procedures
- Expanding Post-Conviction DNA Testing
- Ensuring Proper Safeguards Against Prosecutorial Misconduct
- Ensuring Standards for the Appointment and Performance of Counsel in Capital Cases
RELATED: The Lufkin News urges Governor Perry to reconsider his opposition to an innocence commission.