Broken Justice – News – The Austin Chronicle

Posted: March 12, 2011 by scaryhouse in Uncategorized

BY JORDAN SMITH

In the Texas criminal justice system, eyewitness misidentification is by far the leading cause of wrongful conviction – faulty eyewitness ID was implicated in 86% of Texas DNA exoneration cases. Two years ago, lawmakers tried to enact a bill that would take the first steps to improve the reliability of eyewitness identification; the law would have created a model policy for the state’s law enforcement agencies in conducting live and photo lineups. The bill was a casualty of House chubbing, but this year it is back and moving quickly toward passage.

On Feb. 22, lawmakers in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard testimony on Rep. Pete Gallego’s eyewitness ID bill (House Bill 215), and that afternoon voted unanimously to pass it to the full House for consideration; a week later, on March 1, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee heard testimony on a companion measure, Senate Bill 121, by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, before also voting unanimously to pass the bill to the full chamber for consideration.

To date, there have been 44 DNA exonerations in Texas, and, according to the Innocence Project, a total of 266 post-conviction DNA exonerations nationwide since 1989. (A true number of wrongful convictions is difficult to predict, but it is noteworthy that DNA testing is possible in just 5-10% of all criminal cases, reports the IP.)

A group of seven Texas exonerees – who, taken together, served more than 140 years in prison before exoneration – traveled to the Capitol to testify in support of the eyewitness ID bills. Below is a summary of a handful of their cases and excerpts from their testimony before lawmakers.

via Broken Justice – News – The Austin Chronicle.

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