Friday, April 23, 2010

Advisory panel leaning against innocence commission

Dave Montgomery from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that:
An advisory panel bearing the name of a wrongfully convicted inmate from Fort Worth is apparently leaning against recommending the creation of a state innocence commission amid concerns that it would create a new bureaucracy and duplicate work already being performed in Texas law schools.

The concept of an innocence commission to investigate whether convictions are wrongful was among several recommendations discussed Thursday by the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel. Cole, who died in prison after being convicted for a sexual assault that he didn't commit, was recently given a posthumous pardon by Gov. Rick Perry.

The panel deferred votes until its next meeting, but members generally expressed reservations about creating an innocence commission. Some members called for bolstering similar work now under way in four Texas law schools.

The University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech, the University of Houston and Texas Southern University have projects or clinics that examine questionable convictions. Similar projects are in operation across the country.

The commission's stance generally tracks that of Perry, who believes a commission "would create an added layer of government," said Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle. Perry's deputy general counsel, Mary Anne Wiley, is a member of the panel.

"The governor's focus is working to ensure wrongful convictions don't happen in the first place," Castle said, "like supporting the law school innocence project, creating expert attorneys who specialize in post conviction death penalty cases and encouraging the creation of more public defender offices across the state to ensure competent counsel by attorneys who specialize in death penalty cases."


Jim B said...

"creating expert attorneys who specialize in post conviction death penalty cases"

Is it not true that Perry always stands with the original trial court, as in Hank Skinner? Post conviction my eye. OK, maybe these Guv created "expert attorneys" can get the DNA tested in the Skinner case.

Scott Stevens said...

None of the suggestions you mention get to the heart of what I believe is necessary, complete transparency for police and prosecutors once an arrest is made. By that I mean what we lawyers call discovery reform. Discovery for the uninitiated is the process by which one side of a lawsuit causes the other side to provide the information it has concerning the case. In criminal cases it generally, though not always, refers to the State giving what information it has to the defense.

If you want to ensure fewer wrongful convictions, the measures you mention are critical. However, requiring complete, open-file discovery is necessary or the system cannot be trusted. Without a good discovery system, there is no way to find out in a timely manner if the line-up was improper, if an interrogation became coercion or if the science used was reliable science that was properly applied in a case

Want fewer innocent people in our jails? Want Texas to stop being the laughing stock of criminal justice systems? Start by requiring complete open file discovery. If you do that, the other flaws in the current system will be exposed as a natural consequence.

TDCJEX said...

Scott Stevens is right .

I know from my own experience with the so called justice system . Where evidence in my favor was never made available or when requested the prosecutor said they did not have to turn it over or That they did not have what was being requested. It took a incredibly brave person to contact my appeals attorney and tell them that the evidence I was requesting in fact existed but was deliberately kept hidden . It was not until the state was forced to hand this over did my sentence change on what amounted to a very expensive appeals process that nearly bankrupt my family . I know from being in prison and the near weekly exoneration as well as having contact with people who are fighting convictions that this is the rule and not the exception in TX . To be fair it goes on in other states I too . Though in many states because of the discovery process it is more difficult or this to be done . The state is willing to throw a lot of money away to secure convictions and fight their misconduct in the appeals process .

Why aren't the teabaggers hollering about this waste of tax dollars and loss of freedom I can't think of a great loss of freedom than being falsely convicted or convicted on a much more serious offenses than what really went on .

I know my case would have turned out very differently in other states. Asel as many of the those who I have met or now know of or e have a personal reason for knowing .
I can think of one case out of Smith County that is a based primarily on the words of two at the time teen ages .who both had many reason to perjure themselves and go along with what is a compete fabrication . It also took a bit of help from the judge who made sire the prosecutor got friendly juries that in a a some of the trials had members with personal connections to the prosecutor

The more troubling part is if prosecutors have to use perjured testimony or out right fabrications Then thy clearly do not have a case or at least do not have enough to convict on the charges filed . If that is the case just how many people incarcerated in TDCJ who should not be ? Maybe we should open the flood gates and investigate .

If the discovery process were to be made open and all the flaws and misconduct done by the so called justice system There would be literally thousands of appeals and thousands of people would be released due to the the current system that has made it possible to obtain a conviction when in other states the case might never have made it to court never mid a conviction. The state will throw its resources at fighting any attempts to change the current system which favors the prosecution .That is not what this nation was founded on

Anonymous said...

Another interesting Smith County case involving withheld evidence is currently being considered by the 14th Court of Appeals. From what I hear, the DA's office got ripped by the judges at oral arguments. An honest DA from another county had the courage to file an amicus brief giving the appeals court the facts about the unethical and illegal conduct of the Smith County DA's office. The problem is, these guys keep getting away with this stuff. It's time that someone is prosecuted and this current Smith County case would be a great place to start. It may not be criminal for them to withhold the evidence but when you have a conspiracy involving DA's office and the trial judge (as was the case in the Smith County case) I think you can make a criminal case for official oppression. The Smith County DA could also probably be charged with tampering with a witness and possibly tampering with evidence in this case as well as suborning perjury. Texas Ranger Phillip Kemp should be charged with perjury. Sending some of these clowns to jail is the only way this behavior will stop. The problem is, who will prosecute them? The AG's office aint going to because the judge in the case is very well connected. I'm hoping the appeals court will do something. I dont' know if they have the ability to appoint a special prosecutor but that is what needs to happen. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

"I would be interested in talking with others who might know about some of the problems in Smith County ."

TDCJEX: I also would be interested in talking to other about Smith County. I don't want to put my information on here for everyone to see so I'll email my contact info to Scott and, if he doesn't mind, you can email him and get it.

TDCJEX said...

Anon 6:02.

If it OK with Scott I would be glad to do that . I know of a few case . and my gal and I are unable to hire a attorney . I know of two families that have been searching for help and It is very difficult to find . Perhaps you know them . The more pople who get together and compare notes the stronger of a case we have . From what I heard in TDCJ there are many people who have been screwed by that county .

The issue talked about in the blog are a very serious problem in Smith County . I have thought hat it is not a accident that the statue of Themis is not blindfolded. It is one very interesting and fitting coincidence .

I am hoping that that With a good number of very similar accounts detailing Smith Count's injustices will be righted and those who committed these crimes and human rights violations will be brought to justice and find them selves in the defendants chair .

It is them they will find how important the Constitution is .

I agree that the only way to stop them is to incarcerate them for life .

Scott is it OK with you to help us ?

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, when they rolled out the Advisory Panel, I had high hopes that it would lead to reforming the criminal justice system here in Texas. Now, I feel it was and is only a temporary pacifier. Do you foresee Mr. Cole’s brother leaving in protest?

After reading the comments, I'm happy to see that it's chalked full of additional useful info., especially that offered up by (lawyer) Mr. Scott Stevens & our friend TDCJEX. It makes perfect sense to include "Discovery" in our battle for reform as a starting point. Maybe we can get Mr. Stevens to stay with us to the very end and assist us in our endeavors?

In our quest to end status quo, is it too much of a stretch to ask that (any and all) attempts to correct past, present & future wrongs include closed cases having absolutely nothing to do with DNA and Death Row? Currently, only a couple of the so-called “projects” have targeted these historically ignored claims and some were by accident due to inmates confessing from prison. Thanks.