Saturday, June 15, 2013

Governor signs junk-science habeas bill

Grits was particularly gratified to finally see Governor Perry has signed SB 344 by Whitmire/Turner ensuring access to the courts for habeas corpus writs based on junk science that's been debunked since the trial. This is a bill I worked on quite a bit on behalf of the Innocence Project of Texas, finally coming to  terms with Justin Wood from the Harris County DA's office over the exact language of the new statute. See a copy of written testimony your correspondent submitted on behalf of the IPOT in support of the legislation.

Before this bill, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had been all over the map on this question - granting relief in some cases on a narrow 5-4 vote, denying it in others. But three of the five judges who've sometimes supported relief in junk science cases - Cathy Cochran, Paul Womack and Tom Price - are all up for re-election next year and it's widely speculated all three will retire. That made passing SB 344 especially critical this session and it's a tremendous relief that it passed. There's no telling who might replace those three judges or how their replacements might have ruled on these cases.

Congrats to Chairmans John Whitmre and Sylvester Turner for getting this done. This was the 5th of six legislative recommendations authored by the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions.


Anonymous said...

Grits, congrats on the hard work and outcome.

Please consider part of the next task regarding criminal justice system reforms to include the 6th on the list and addressing the plea bargain fiasco.

By recording everything and forcing attorneys to investigate prior to filing Ready for Trial notices (and show their work by making it part of the Case files, the 97% plea bargain rate will plumment along with wrongful conviction rates.

Anonymous said...

What does this mean for deaths that have been ruled incorrectly?