Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bill would allow habeas appeals based on discredited science

Yet another piece of important new innocence-related legislation, SB 1976, passed the Texas Senate yesterday and is headed over to the House. According to the Austin Statesman's Mike Ward:

Criminals who were sent to prison — or sentenced to death — based on discredited scientific evidence would be given a new way to challenge their convictions under a bill passed this morning by the Texas Senate.

In recent years, an increasing number of arson and gunshot convictions in Texas have triggered alarm as new technology proved earlier evidence wrong, and convictions were cast into doubt — including at least one case in which the prisoner was executed.

The measure by state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, would allow discredited scientific evidence that figured in a criminal conviction to be considered by an appeals court in order to establish the innocence of a defendant.

“This could help restore someone’s liberty in cases where discredited evidence was used to convict them,” Whitmire said. “I majored in political science, not forensic science, but I know this will improve current law.”

Advancements in forensic testing — DNA, ballistics and arson — have led to new evidence being uncovered in several cases in Texas. Whitmire said that led him to file the bill, which clarifies how discredited scientific evidence can be used in court appeals.

Key issue for those appeals: That the new information could not have been known earlier, when the defendant was convicted, because the science used to validate it has since been invalidated.

See also an Innocence Project of Texas fact sheet describing an earlier version of the bill.


Informed Citizen said...

SAD, very SAD.

It is sad that our Senators, Representatives, Judges and Attorneys have not read our Texas Constitution. The LAW that BINDS them. And HONORED their Oath. Then this legislation would not have been necessary.

The writ of habeas corpus is a writ of right, and shall never be suspended.
Sec. 29. PROVISIONS OF BILL OF RIGHTS EXCEPTED FROM POWERS OF GOVERNMENT; TO FOREVER REMAIN INVIOLATE. To guard against transgressions of the high powers herein delegated, we declare that everything in this "Bill of Rights" is excepted out of the general powers of government, and shall forever remain inviolate, and all laws contrary thereto, or to the following provisions, shall be void.

I COMMEND Senator Whitmire, and other Authors of this bill for repealing PART of an unconstitutional statute suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus.

But they have not yet caught up with our US Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

If one knows post-conviction litigation they know that an imprisoned person can file as many Writs as they want, providing they have come up with some new grounds in Fact or Law to show their imprisonment is unlawful. This has ALWAYS been a Right SECURED by our Constitutions. A right that exists even in absence of Constitutional protection. An inherent & unalienble (substantive) Right.

Judicial opinions recognizing this would not be necessary if the US and Texas Constitutions had not been attacked in the first instance by prior legislators who proposed, and passed, unconstitutional laws.

Anonymous said...

A pity that Informed Citizen is completely ignorant of the law as applied in Texas. Anyone relying on what s/he says is in for a great disappointment. It is the TX Court of Criminal Appeals as well as the US Supreme Court that have helped create the extraordinary restrictions on successor petitions that completely undermine what Informed Citizen seems to believe. As does Tex. Code Crim. Proc. 11.071. IC should get some reliable information before coming out with these ridiculous pronouncements.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of ignorance, it was none other than the LEGISLATURE that passed Section 4 to Article 11.07 (limiting the convicted to one "bite at the apple").