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 hamptonforjudge.com to sign up for my mailing list and make a contribution.
Thank you for your support,
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:
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.
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'