Friday, April 17, 2009

Eyewitness ID, corroborating jailhouse informants clear Senate

Two positive, if incrementalist pieces of legislation passed the Texas Senate yesterday related to preventing false convictions:
Sen. Ellis' bill, in particular, is a much stronger piece of legislation than the Senate passed last session on the same topic, perhaps bolstered by the large number of exonerated men since then. Faulty eyewitness identifications are the leading cause of false convictions among DNA exonerees, and the Court of Criminal Appeals' Criminal Justice Integrity Unit told the Lege eyewitness ID reform should have the "highest priority of any efforts in the area of wrongful convictions."

Hinojosa's bill builds on legislation he carried several sessions ago requiring corroboration for informant testimony in undercover drug stings (back in 2001 when he chaired the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee). At the committee hearing on the bill, Hinojosa agreed that, ideally, no one should be convicted based on uncorroborated testimony for which a witness receives official compensation or leniency. But ideals aside, you do what's possible in the legislative process and Hinojosa is extending the corroboration requirement to a significant new category of informants.

Now these bills move to the House, which has yet to move any legislation from the Calendars Committee to the floor (though a few bills have passed on "local" calendars). Both of these are agreed bills whose main barrier to passage at this point may be the calendar, rather than any organized opposition.



Corroboration has always been requred of any informant for a conviction, including confessions.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Maybe in your shop, BCT, but not under the law. When they required corroboration for informants in undercover drug stings in 2001, that was the first category of informants ever where corroboration was required besides accomplices, for whom the "accomplice witness rule" has existed for a long while. Perhaps that's what you're referencing?