Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Many wrongfully convicted Harris County drug defendants never notified of innocence claims

The Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission continues to trundle along months after your correspondent left its ranks and is scheduled to meet Thursday, September 15th at 1:00 p.m. in the House Appropriations Committee Room, Texas Capitol Extension Room #E1.030. The Office of Court Administration posted links to the Agenda, Meeting Book, Appendix, and Media clips for this and prior meetings. The meeting will be broadcast live on the House of Representatives website here.

Among other documents, the "meeting book" this time contains a joint power-point presentation from the Harris County DA and Public Defender on the rash of drug exonerations in that county stemming from a combination of over-aggressive drug enforcement and faulty field tests. Their update included a reminder that quite a few falsely convicted people in this episode served out their full sentences without ever being notified they were entitled to relief. Just to try out something new, here are a few screenshot-highlights from that presentation collected into a brief slideshow:


The difficulties faced in notifying defendants eligible for relief, much less equipping them with counsel if they have a viable claim, are neither new nor unique to this episode. Rather, it's a problem the state confronts in multiple situations where large-scale forensic and/or other errors potentially taint large classes of cases instead of one or two convictions. These are not problems with obviously great solutions, but identifying them and talking about ways to improve on past failings is a good place to start.

4 comments:

A Waco Friend said...

With pending liability for the county/state, it would seem that funding a few dedicated investigators to track down the victims, provide a few additional attorneys in the public defender office dedicated to this, etc., could be a cheaper alternative to having to respond to massive civil rights lawsuits.

Anonymous said...

How hard could it be? Start with an arrest database from the cops. Marry that to a conviction database. You might think the next step is to further research cases that involve the existence of X, where X is the condition that made the conviction faulty. That's where govt officials can put their hands in their pocket and claim they will never be able to derive the golden list of cases and thereby fall short on notification of those impacted. Nonsense. The answer is to over-notify. All convicted of a class of crime should get a notice saying, you are being contacted because you were convicted of ABC. If your case also involved X, you may be eligible for relief. Contact your attorney and direct them to this web page...

Dean Becker said...

Drug prohibition is evil, proves itself every day, those who believe in drug war are evil.

Anonymous said...

Did they have a problem finding these people when they were handing out indictments? Maybe they should just pretend they are serving new indictments...