Thursday, April 19, 2007

Expanding use of questionable evidence

Two bad bills aimed at allowing questionable evidence into court in sexual assault cases passed out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this week and are headed to the House floor. HB 1035 by Debbie Riddle (discussed here) would allow hearsay evidence in more cases with young victims, raising the age where hearsay evidence may be admitted to anyone under 14 (because we all know 13 year olds don't lie). And HB 1264 by Chairman Aaron Pena (discussed here) would allow evidence of prior bad acts to be admitted in sexual assault cases.

I don't get this - Texas has seen a rash of wrongful convictions uncovered, but rather than pass legislation that would reduce the number of innocent people convicted, these bills are essentially what I've called "anti-innocence" initiatives, proposals that make it more likely that flawed or biased testimony generates a wrongful conviction.

Meanwhile, the Senate has supposedly reached a deal on HB 8 (Jessica's Law) and it has been placed along with several other pieces of sex offender legislation on the Senate intent calendar, meaning they could be heard at any time starting next week. So assuming some version of Jessica's Law passes, these other bills coming out of Criminal Jurisprudence make it more likely that Texas' most severe sentences will be used against innocent people.

UPDATE: A Public Defender has written about the "tender years" exception to the hearsay rule, and considers the Texas bill "dangerous," see:


Anonymous said...

One only need look at the number of so-called convicted sex offenders locked in the prisons of Texas to realize something is terribly flawed with the entire system. The "witch-hunt" type mentality that is infecting this state, over zealous D.A.'s up for election, court appointed attorneys with limited resources (if any),and no desire to be the attorney that got a crazed sex offender off, judges who allow their courtroom to be manipulated by unskilled expert testimony, and a jury held captive by allegations and show-boating, are all recipes for the conviction of an innocent person. A jilted girlfriend, an angry wife, and the ability to convict WITHOUT evidence (except she said~he said) are filling our prisons with men whose lives are forever destroyed.
Now we see proposed bills that want to make it even easier to get a false conviction by assuming every little girl or boy who takes the stand is telling the truth. Will the insanity never cease?
Trust me when I tell you that a man can be convicted in this state with no DNA, with no witness to the so-called crime, and with no recourse against the allegation. Men in this state need to be afraid...very afraid.

Anonymous said...

I agree, the men in this state do need to be very afraid. And the punishment never stops. Placed on a registry, no place to live, presumed guilty of any crime that takes place, little hope that life will ever return to normal. What has and is our system of "justice" coming to? Or where is it already? I am outraged.