A bill passed by the Texas Senate this week would provide an avenue for prisoners to challenge convictions based on discredited forensic science.
In recent years, an increasing number of arson and gunshot convictions in Texas have triggered alarm as new technology proved earlier evidence wrong, and convictions were cast into doubt — including at least one case in which the prisoner was executed.
The measure by state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, would allow discredited scientific evidence that figured in a criminal conviction to be considered by an appeals court in order to establish the innocence of a defendant.
“This could help restore someone’s liberty in cases where discredited evidence was used to convict them,” Whitmire said.
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. (Marshall News Messenger, 04/20/09)
Unvalidated and improper forensic science is a leading cause of wrongful conviction. In February, the National Academy of Sciences released a report calling for significantly strengthened oversight, research and support in the forensic sciences. An Innocence Project review showed that unvalidated and improper forensic science contributed to more than half of the first 225 wrongful convictions overturned by DNA testing.