Thursday, April 21, 2011

Texas House flip flops to kill Innocence Commission bill in statement vote

There was a remarkable and regrettable flip-flop today on the House floor regarding Rep. Ruth Jones McLendon's HB 115, which would create an Innocence Commission to study the causes of false convictions and recommend solutions. The Texas Tribune reported yesterday that the bill passed on second reading 82-54. But today Rep. Tryon Lewis rose in opposition, arguing rather blandly and not entirely coherently that such matters should be left to the judiciary. Reps. McLendon and Pete Gallego tried to salvage the bill, but a surprising number of House members changed their vote, with the measure going down 91-51. Here are the 32 no votes from today who voted "yes" yesterday:
Aliseda, Beck, Bohac, Brown (Fred), Christian, Creighton, Darby, Davis (John), Eissler, Geren, Hamilton, Harless, Hartnett, Hildebran, Hopson, Huberty, Hughes, Jackson (Jim), Legler, Madden, Nash, Parker, Patrick (Diane), Ritter, Sheets, Sheffield, Smith (Todd), Smithee, Torres, White, Woolley, Zerwas
I don't know the backstory behind so many members flip-flopping in a 24 hour span, but this vote turned what had been sort of a bland, study-the-problem bill into quite a statement vote - and not an encouraging statement, at that - from the Texas House of Representatives.

MORE: From the Dallas News and the SA Express News.


Hook Em Horns said...

It's because when their heads hit the pillow at night...they don't care.

Anonymous said...

Because an Innocence Commission might proved too embarassing for the state proud of its rep of most executions.

Audrey said...

Embarassing and too costly, if they really started owning what is going on. Wouldn't it just open a bigger can of worms...especially if they started looking into the non-DNA cases? I suppose what is right and what they've decided they can live with is two different things. No surprise, really.

Anonymous said...

"blandly and not entirely coherently"? Right, if by that you mean, "citing specific concrete ways the bill was bad policy and a recipe for political future political theater".

Texas already studies this problem and giving a group of law school professors a bigger microphone wouldn't remotely reduce the problem of wrongful convictions in the state.

McClendon and Gallego got up responded with hollow platitudes to Lewis' specific criticisms and they fell flat.

Not much more to say than that.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:00, my reference was to Lewis' statement that this job should be left to the judiciary and not a political process. But the judiciary says it can do no more until the Legislature, i.e., the political process, changes the laws. Everybody points to the next guy and says "it's their job." And as long as they do, little will change.

The Homeless Cowboy said...

My Dearest 10:00

I am of course in awe of the superiority that you seem to possess over those of us who do not possess an intellect as finely tuned as yours.

Im afraid I must agree with grits on this point, passing the buck isnt getting the job done and neither are you guys who make those tough guy stands but you do it anonymously.

Anonymous said...

Why would they approve something that would just lead to lawsuits? Has everyone forgotten about Anthony Graves who was recently denied compensation by the state for spending more than 18 years in prison?

By the way, "48 Hours Mystery” will be airing an episode on Saturday featuring his case. Called “Grave Injustice,” the program will air locally from 9-10 p.m. on CBS affiliates.;cnav

TenPeeEm said...

You're absolutely right that there's a problem of wrongful convictions in Texas. Clearly the current system of redress isn't adequate. But the reason some fifty-odd lawmakers rethought their vote on the bill yesterday way because McClendon's bill wasn't a solution to the problem, either. What merit could an Innocence Commission without any elected official--not a single judge--possibly have? Clearly it would have just become a darling of the left, punching bag of the right, and marginalized straight of the gate.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

TenPeeEm, I can see that argument. But let's hope, then, that those same legislators all support the actual reform bills that make it before them, otherwise this'll look a little two-faced. Most of the stuff recommended by the Court of Criminal Appeals' Criminal Justice Integrity Unit two years ago still hasn't passed.

BTW, I strongly encourage anonymous commenters to at least adopt regular pseudonyms so we can distinguish them, and despite its temporal source, please, if only for my own amusement, make TenPeeEm yours. :)

Anonymous said...

You might want to check the official, final vote count. A good friend of mine who is a representative (I won't say who) said that he and a few others were away from their desks when the vote took place, and some well-meaning members voted for them. Happens all the time.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, thanks for naming the names of those that flipped. I’ll be firing off a letter to each and every one of them in hopes of finding out ‘why’ they did so. “Too costly”, “Embarrassing”, “it’s their job”, “Texas already studies the problem”, “Open the door for more lawsuits” – all make darn good excuses.

But, for 32 State Representatives to change their minds over night, we must assume that they are either beholding to Mr. Lewis or were contacted by a powerful lobbyist. No matter what they offer up as valid reasons, everyone knows by now the causes of false convictions and we are up to our necks in plausible solutions. (See GFB Archives for darn good ones) It’s absolutely impossible to be wrongfully convicted without first being falsely arrested.

IMO - It starts with bad cop(s) with personal agendas and/or pay/promotion quotas that hands you off to bad detectives with personal agendas and/or pay/promotion quotas that rig photo arrays and show-ups seeking & obtaining bogus charges via: the DA’s INTAKE. Rogue ADAs with immunity clauses are enabled by lazy judges that are allowed to keep favorable evidence from seeing the light of day.

Sadly, our so-called Criminal Defense Attorneys/Lawyers of Texas buddy up with the ADAs and play plea bargain abuse games. Then it’s these individuals that end up on the bench as the vicious cycle never ends. Even sadder is when the voters become jurors and get to play God or CSI for a day or two. As for taxpayers, none of it could possibly happen without our funding and full support. No public rage or public protest is equal to complicity and condoning. Thanks.

Hooman Hedayati said...

Also the only republican that voted in favor of this was Aaron Pena who was a democrat until last year. I guess he's ashamed of killing a similar bill a few years ago when he was the chairman of the criminal jurisprudence committee.

john said...

trial lawyers or other lawyer/judge lobby group got to the Legislators?
WHAT would cause an overnight mass flip-flop? WHO are they "representing"??

Audrey said...

I like Thomas's idea...its time to start firing off letters. It needs to be done quickly and they need to know (1) we noticed what they did and (2) its time to clean up the system and stop ruining innocent peoples' lives. I agree, we know the reasons it happens, but unless it is addressed and those involved made accountable it is never going to stop. Thank you letters are going out this weekend. I hope others will do the same. This would be an excellant group project, we can sit over here and blog about it all day, but if there is ever going to be any reform we have to take action....or the problem in Texas will just continue to increase exponentially.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Audrey, we can save our stamps and time emailing the Texas House of Representatives. I took a look at the house of rep. website and within seconds the answer to all of our questions is in the form of a capital - (R) next to their names.

Looks like only one of the 91 nays is a (D). Simply put, this flip flop from hell is a tribute to Governor Perry and the rest of the (R)s past, present & future. Go back to sleep everyone the mystery was only political, nothing to see, move along.

Here are their names just in case you are interested in what your tax dollars are up to?

Nays – Aliseda, Jose; Anderson, Charles; Aycock, Jimmie; Beck, Marva; Berman, Leo; Bohac, Bohac; Bonnen, Dennis; Branch, Dan; Brown, Fred; Burkett, Cindy; Button, Angie Chen; Cain, Erwin; Callegari, Bill; Carter, Stefani; Chisum, Warren; Christian, Wayne; Cook, Byron; Craddick, Tom; Creighton, Brandon; Darby, Drew; Davis, John; Davis, Yvonne; Davis, Sarah; Driver, Joe; Eissler, Rob; Elkins, Gary; Fletcher, Allen; Flynn, Dan; Frullo, John; Garza, John; Gonzales, Larry.; Hamilton, Mike; Hancock, Kelly; Hardcastle, Rick; Harless, Patricia; Harper-Brown, Linda; Hartnett, Will; Hilderbran, Harvey; Hopson, Chuck; Howard, Charlie; Huberty, Dan; Hughes, Bryan; Isaac, Jason; Jackson, Jim; Keffer, James; King, Phil.; Kleinschmidt, Tim; Landtroop, Jim; Larson, Lyle; Laubenberg, Jodie; Lavender, George; Legler, Ken; Lewis, Tryon; Lyne, Lanham; Madden, Jerry; Margo, Dee; Miller, Doug; Miller, Sid; Morrison, Geanie; Murphy, Jim; Nash, Barbara; Orr, Rob; Otto, John; Parker, Tan; Patrick, Diane; Paxton, Ken; Perry, Charles; Phillips, Larry; Pitts, Jim; Price, Walter-(Four); Riddle, Debbie; Ritter, Allan; Schwertner, Charles; Scott, Connie; Sheets, Kenneth; Sheffield, Ralph; Shelton, Mark; Simpson, David; Smith, Todd; Smith, Wayne.; Smithee, John; Solomons, Burt; Taylor, Larry; Taylor, Van; Torres, Raul; Truitt, Vicki; Weber, Randy; White, James; Woolley, Beverly; Workman, Paul; Zedler, Bill; Zerwas, John

Audrey said...

I did get emails out to these folks, so no postage wasted, but was going to follow up with letters. Won't waste my time. Its pretty pathetic when political affiliation prevents independent thinking. I can't figure out how these people can have a clear conscience about destroying innocent peoples' lives, making no committment to study or right things. This follows what you and others have said...these people clearly become a party to the miscarriage of justice. In this case it is an active decision as to the "Representatives". Whereas the voters who continue to vote these folks in, their involvement is somewhat passive if they don't speak up, until they go to the polls, given this information, then they are also actively perpetuating the miscarriage of justice. Its like walking through life with blinders on.