Column: Confusing Texas Law Hinders Work of TFSC
Last month, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that the Texas Forensic Science Commission does not have the jurisdiction to review Cameron Todd Willingham’s arson conviction despite it investigating the science used to convict Willingham for the past several years.
Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey wrote Monday about the confusing law that allows the commission to investigate the case’s arson findings but prohibits examination of evidence presented to the jury because it was introduced before September 1, 2005.
Despite the AG’s ruling, Sen. Juan Hinojosa said there is no statute of limitations on anything the Forensic Science Commission does and pushed to have the law revised.
One of the main points of tension was whether the law’s sole job was to make findings as to whether staffers of certified forensic labs were negligent in handling individual cases, or whether it was to critique any illegitimate use of forensic science in Texas criminal justice cases and work to improve the practice in the state.
Since the errors in the Willingham case were by arson investigators, not a certified laboratory, they would not be included.
Hinojosa’s bill this spring would have cleared the matter up.
Hinojosa’s bill added language that would allow the commission to investigate any forensic analysis if a majority vote believed it necessary to advance the integrity and reliability of forensic science.
According to a Hinojosa staffer, he plans to present the bill again in 2013.
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