Thursday, May 19, 2011

Big day for innocence legislation, but deadlines loom for DNA testing, preservation bills

Yesterday was a fine day at the capitol for innocence legislation. Texas' latest DNA exoneree, Johnny Pinchback, who spent 27 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit, was there along with five other exonerees and Tim Cole's half-brother Cory Session to watch the Texas Senate pass two favorable bills: Eyewitness ID reform and innocence compensation legislation that gives exonerees health benefits and will let Anthony Graves receive compensation. Here's a sample from the extensive MSM coverage:
Of the other innocence-related legislation, two bills remain alive that deserve passage in the final days of the session - SB 122 improving access to post-conviction DNA testing, and SB 1616 which would establish evidence preservation standards for biological evidence. Both were passed out of House committee and recommended for the Local and Consent calendar where they still have time to pass, though the deadline looms large.

Despite the passage of the bills, meeting Mr. Pinchback was the highlight of my day. What a great guy, and what an atrocity he endured! Another exoneree at the capitol yesterday, Charles Chatman, met Pinchback in prison and became "like brothers," both men told me, watching each other's backs for years in an environment where prisoners convicted of a sex offense aren't the most popular on the cell block. The best part: Chatman didn't forget his pal when he got out, pressing my employers at the Innocence Project of Texas to vigorously pursue the case until DNA testing proved his innocence and he was finally released from prison last week.

I've said this before, but I'm incredibly proud of the exonerees who've come back to the capitol over and over to promote innocence legislation. It'd be tempting for them to take their money and get the hell out of Texas after what happened to them, and some have, but the fellows at the capitol yesterday not only stuck around but are actively pushing to prevent what happened with them from happening to others. It's humbling, and a real honor, to get to work with such folks. I hope the Texas House honors their efforts as well by finally passing those last two bills before next week's deadline.


S.O. said...

What a terrible thing it is that we have to see laws passed that enables improved access to post-conviction DNA evidence.

In a free society, which we should be but are not a part of, one would imagine that the goal of absolute proof is the goal at all times. With the suggestion of these laws, it is evident that innocence is what must be proven in a court of law and not guilt. Damned Shame.

Anonymous said...

Ellis amended the language of SB122 to HB1573.

Ted Wood said...

I'm mortified, embarrassed and humiliated that the media has reported Perfect Hair as a possible Republican pres nominee-haven't we already been humiliated enough for this century? the fact that post conviction DNA testing is controversial should not come a surprise to anyone in a state that has re elected Killer to CCA, but I'm embarrased neverthless- to spend the best years of your life behind bars for a crime you did not commit is, if not literally, at least figuratively, a sin - DNA testing should come as a matter of right during prosecution, or at least during any post conviction procedures- contrary to what the leg says, we can afford it- its cheaper than the 75 g per year to house an inmate

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, darn right it was a fine day indeed. It was history in the making and for some reason; it only sparked a few peoples interest enough to comment about it.

FWIW - on behalf of the (VOTS) we would like to publicly announce our deepest appreciation to you and the folks at the IPOT for teaming up with Sen. Ellis in an effort to prevent the mistakes and intentional framing of tomorrows humans. We look forward to your support of future bills addressing claims of actual innocence regarding non-DNA, non-Death Row related cases. Thanks a million.