Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Newspapers endorse compensation for false convictions

Two major daily newspapers today urged the Texas Senate to approve legislation improving compensation for exonerated defendants.
The Statesman argued that the bill:
could actually save the state money by preventing lawsuits and avoiding large settlements and legal fees. Those who are awarded benefits would forfeit their rights to sue the state. And the legislation would not reward people who were exonerated but went on to commit other crimes. They would not qualify for benefits.

The best reason to pass the legislation is because it is the right thing to do. No one can give back the time or erase the miseries endured in prison. And Texas leads the nation in the number of people, 38, who have been exonerated by DNA testing. Perhaps attaching a cost to wrongful convictions will help improve the legal system.

The Dallas News editorial concluded:

Without this measure, the state will continue committing a double injustice to these people – once for their wrongful imprisonment and again for the failure to help them rebuild their lives once they're set free. Two wrongs make the Timothy Cole Act the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, quite a bit of other postive innocence-related legislation is still alive and moving, including the Senate version of a bill to require police departments to implement policies governing eyewitness identification procedures that will be heard tomorrow in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.

Several other Senate bills on innocence-related topics have come over to the House, including legislation related to recording police interrogations, requiring corroboration for jailhouse informants, and expanding post-conviction writ access for defendants in cases where scientific evidence has been discredited. Most of this legislation doesn't face significant opposition and, as is often the case at the end of Texas legislative sessions, time is arguably its biggest enemy.

MORE: See a press release from Rep. Rafael Anchia about the compensation bill.


123txpublicdefender123 said...

I gotta say that I still REALLY hate the provision that says you forfeit compensation if you are later convicted of another crime. How is it, exactly, that the State should not compensate someone for wrongfully incarcerating them for 20 years if the person later unlawfully harvests oysters or some other such thing?

Informed Citizen said...

GRITS - What Happened yesterday?
SB 2014 was on the Calender. Did it come up for debate in the Senate?
The Leg online notation is confusing. It says "not again placed on intent calender" with today's date next to it.
For those who don't know - this is the companion to the Anchia house bill on compensation for victims of wrongful imprisonment.

Anonymous said...

No one I know wants a person to be falsely accused or imprisoned. However, there is something really disturbing about all this hand wringing.

As an example, if someone is arrested for rape number 11, which he didn't do, is he really an "innocent" person if he got away with his other 10 rapes? The ACLU would sure be eager to paint him as a decent, upstanding and innocent citizen because he didn't do number 11.

Sure, some actually decent people may get wrongly charged but isn't it a mistake to close our eyes to the rap sheet of most of these "innocent" "gentlemen?" If you're on a year long crime spree and have blood on your hands you may create suspicion that a law abiding person wouldn't be generating. And, you may cause youself to be a suspect.

While you're beating the drum and parading self-righetously up and down for justice, why is it that I never see you show concern for the victims of these violent crimes?

While we protect the true innocent, the "hug a thug" approach doesnt suit everyone.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:22 - are you talking about a particular case or just spewing out hypotheticals that have no basis in reality?

Informed, the House bill passed so they're waiting to substitute it for the Senate bill. It will likely be voted on soon.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it has no basis in your reality - that's the problem.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So there's a specific case you can point to in the real world, 12:16, where a serial rapist was set free? That's the hyperbolic assertion you think I'm delusional because I won't accept from you. Here's the list. Who among DNA exonerees set free in Texas fits that profile? Help me understand my "problem."

The only Texas case I know of where someone was exonerated of a rape when he'd committed others in the past is the guy who was removed from death row for Ashley Estell's murder (of which he was innocent), but he'll be in TDCJ for the rest of his life for his other crimes. There's another fellow in Dallas where DNA proved he didn't commit the rape, but he's being reprosecuted for the same crime as an accomplice. Both those men are being held accountable for their crimes.

It's easy to just anonymously make up stuff and spew oral diarrhea, but I'm pretty sure you can't point to a single, real-world example where DNA exonerated a serial rapist who today is walking the streets.

This isn't about benefiting the guilty, it's about promoting justice. And also getting to the truth, which is clearly something you don't care a whit about.

Mark#1 said...

Facts certainly get in the way of hysterical, knee-jerk prejudices, don't they Mr. Anonymous?

lucas law center said...

So we may call this a crime.


Anonymous said...

"No one I know wants a person to be falsely accused or imprisoned. However, there is something really disturbing about all this hand wringing."