Friday, January 22, 2010

CCA candidate Hampton flip flops on eyewitness ID

The campaign manager for Democratic Court of Criminal Appeals candidate Keith Hampton emailed me to ask if I would republish this blog post from Burnt Orange Report by Keith titled "My Recommendations for the Forensic Science Commission." Here's what he wrote:

Last week, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, chaired by Representative Pete Gallego, invited me to testify about how Texas might improve the state of forensic science.

Texas has exonerated many individuals who were wrongfully imprisoned, and many of the exonerees were victims of bad identification procedures, prosecutorial misconduct, incompetent representation and junk science. During the last session, as the legislative director for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, I worked for meaningful reform of eyewitness identification, among many other issues. In my testimony to the committee, I made these recommendations based on the principle that the interests of science should be paramount to the interests of legal adversaries:

1. The Forensic Science Commission should be overseen and managed by scientists and not lawyers. Lawmakers can easily make a change to the statute that ensures a scientist acts as the presiding officer of the Commission.

2. No area of forensics should be off-limits to scientific inquiry. Currently, the statute prohibits the Forensic Science Commission from investigating fingerprint examinations, breath-testing and digital evidence. All prohibitions should be removed and the Commission should be permitted to investigate all forensic science it deems necessary.

3. The Commission should become the accrediting agency for Texas crime labs. The Commission should also determine the error rates of all accredited crime labs and publish them on the Commission website.

All of these proposals would advance the integrity and scope of the Commission and its ongoing mission to identify and exclude junk science from Texas courtrooms. Further, in light of the difficult budgetary circumstances our state is facing, none of these measures would entail a fiscal note.

Because of my passion for justice, whether advocating for common-sense forensic reforms or 20 years of defending the underserved in the courtroom, I am now taking the next step towards making Texas’s judicial system the best it can be: I am running for the Court of Criminal Appeals. I hope you share my concerns about the state of forensic science in Texas and will support my campaign for the Court of Criminal Appeals. Please go to to sign up for my mailing list and make a contribution.

Thank you for your support,

Keith Hampton

I agree with those three proposals (see Grits' coverage of the hearing he's talking about), but not with everything said here. One imagines that, when I was asked to repost this, Hampton's campaign manager was unaware that I'd already left this comment at BOR disputing part of it:

Though Keith and I have not always seen eye to eye, I support him for the CCA. But he in fact inexplicably OPPOSED Texas' eyewitness ID legislation - at first agreeing to a compromise then retracting that agreement, taking a hard line, and ultimately flat-out opposing the bill on the House side.

It's a bit of a stretch to claim Keith "worked for meaningful reform of eyewitness identification" when in fact he opposed the only meaningful eyewitness reforms proposed at the Lege last year.

I'm just sayin'
I think the CCA needs greater diversity - of opinion, not race, gender, etc. - so my disagreements with Keith over eyewitness ID won't keep me from voting for him in the fall. But that doesn't change the fact that Hampton and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association were the lone opponents of eyewitness ID reform at the Legislature, not great champions of the idea.


Anonymous said...

Of course you won't have a problem voting for Hampton. He is the essence of liberalness. And Hampton has never been bothered by switching his answer to suit his audience. He is well known as unreliable in the Leg process. Prosecutors love for him to show up. Then the leg members know to vote the opposite.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Prosecutors love for him to show up. Then the leg members know to vote the opposite."

Perhaps that explains why the bill passed out of committee over Keith's objections. He succeeded in delaying the bill, though, then Voter ID killed it.

Anonymous said...

By the way, prosecutors supported the witness ID bill. They didn't like the initial version but worked with members to come up with something that improved the system.

Anonymous said...

You're not man enough to carry Keith's briefcase, let alone enter into a discussion of his ramblings on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Ramble on.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It always amuses me when anonymous cowards show up to claim someone else isn't "man enough" for this or that when they aren't "man enough" to put their name on their opinions.

Keith can carry his own briefcase.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, Support him if you must. But after learning here at GFB that one of the major reasons for false arrests and wrongful convictions is directly related to eyewitness ID mishaps....

Anyway, you are your own man and have every right to like his three remaining proposals. But something tells me he just might flip on them as well.(Once a flipper always a flipper).

To fully understand, you'd have to walk in the shoes of the falsely arrested and wrongfully convicted via falsified eyewitness descriptions. I've had these same shoes since March 1st, 1984, thanks to Casey O'Brien & Daniel R. Jackson.
Thomas R. Griffith
PROJECT: Not Guilty

Gritsforbreakfast said...

TRG, I doubt you'd prefer Judge Keasler.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

I know what you mean. Do you foresee any meaningful eyewitness reforms anytime in the near future?

What can the people do to assist?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

There'll be a bill next session, TRG. In the meantime, folks should approach their local police chiefs and sheriffs and ask them to switch to sequential, blind lineups like Dallas did. Every agency that does so makes the bill's chances that much better.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits,
In your opinion, would compiling and presenting petitions best accomplish it? Should we include: phone calls & letters, arranging personal meetings, and attempt to put it on the monthly city counsel meeting agendas?

We are currently in the process of enlisting ordinary citizens as Team members in an effort to have a voice in the matter of criminal justice reforms from the ground up. *Just want to make sure we are heard and productive. Thanks for the leadership.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

TRG, probably start by talking to the chief or sheriff to present a specific proposal (I'd suggest Dallas' model) and find out where they stand on it. Ideally you can just convince them to do it because it's right. If that doesn't work, then ultimately the answer on "what to do" is all of the above, plus communicating to the public about the problem through local media outlets and anything else you can think of. But the law enforcement administrators (chiefs and sheriffs) have authority to do this of their own accord. I'd approach them first before going to the city council, media, etc.. My sense is that there's a wide range of opinion among that group and some might be receptive, they just haven't been asked by local constituents.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits,
Thanks a million.