It’s not often you can say a piece of legislation might save lives, but House Bill 215 might do just that.
Known as eyewitness ID reform, the bill would help prevent wrongful convictions in Texas. It would institute best practices for police lineups and greatly reduce the chances that witnesses will mistakenly send an innocent person to prison. Witness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions—it’s a factor in 75 percent of cases later overturned by DNA testing, according to the New York-based Innocence Project. Criminal justice reform advocates have tried for years to reform police lineups. And, finally, it seems the Texas Legislature will pass the bill.
The Senate is expected, perhaps as early as today, to debate HB 215. The bill—authored by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine)—has already passed the House. If senators pass it on Wednesday—and they unanimously approved an earlier version—the bill will go to Gov. Rick Perry, who’s indicated he plans to sign it into law.All I can say is better late than never; this bill had the votes to pass two years ago and died in the Chub-fest over Voter ID at the end of the session. I understand Texas' latest DNA exoneree, Johnny Pinchback, will be on hand today for the bill's Senate passage.
See related Grits posts:
- How much do eyewitnesses really see?
- Eyewitnesses and the 'feeling of knowing'
- Eyewitnesses in staged test only 8% accurate
- More on the fallibility of eyewitness testimony
- Eyewitnesses miss big changes in their environment, like the person in front of them
- Study: 88% of police and sheriffs have no written policy on eyewitness ID procedures, even fewer follow best practices
- CCA Integrity Unit: Eyewitness ID reform should be top innocence priority