Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Innocence bills, exoneree testmony well received at Senate Criminal Justice Committee

The hearing on all the innocence-related legislation today in the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee, I thought, was a rousing success (at least from the standpoint of the Innocence Project of Texas Policy Director) with scarce little opposition to most of the reform legislation proposed.

Only the Houston police union opposed the eyewitness ID legislation (the first bill up if you're watching the video), but prosecutors and lots of other groups supported the compromise and the bill passed out of committee unanimously. (The Dallas DA's office actually suggested the bill was too weak!) Also passing with no opposition was Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa's bill requiring corroboration for jailhouse informants.

Chairman Whitmire's SB 1976 improving access to courts for post-conviction actual-innocence writs based on new scientific evidence was equally well received. (See an Innocence Project of Texas fact sheet on the subject.) The bill would make other types of new scientific evidence proving innocence on par with DNA evidence for purposes of post-conviction actual-innocence writs.

In support of the legislation, exoneree Brandon Moon delivered emotionally charged, tearful testimony about a man he met in prison who he now believes might be the innocent victim of since-debunked arson science. This was an interesting discussion, I thought, and Brandon's testimony was amazing - see the bill layed out at the 2:10:30 mark of the video. Well worth watching; Brandon was the second speaker, and I'm glad it was Mike Ware of the Dallas County DA's District Attorney's office and not me who had to follow him. Ware also spoke in favor of the bill - a significant thing since as head of Dallas' Conviction Integrity Unit he probably knows more about post-conviction innocence writs than any proseucutor in the state. The Harris DA's office opposed it but expressed support for the overall goal. I testified too, as did a couple of other Innocence Project folks.

There were lots of other good bills up today in the Criminal Justice Committee and some excellent testimony, particularly regarding reentry issues facing exonerees (see an IPOT fact sheet summarizing many of the bills).

See also AP's coverage of a press conference (see video) earlier in the day promoting the legislation.

That's how I spent my Tuesday! :) It was a pretty good day. Hasta maƱana.

MORE: See related coverage from AP, the Lufkin Daily News, Fox34 Lubbock, DFW/NBC News, and KVUE Austin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy to hear how well received this was.