News 01.10.11

Cornelius Dupree and Tim Cole’s Brother Plead for Eyewitness Identification Reform in Texas

Cornelius Dupree, who was declared innocence last week after serving 30 years for a crime he didn’t commit, and Cory Session, the policy director for the Innocence Project of Texas, wrote an op-ed this weekend about the importance of reforming eyewitness identification procedures in Texas to prevent wrongful convictions.

Dupree served 30 years in prison for robbery and rape before his conviction was overturned last week after DNA evidence proved his innocence, and Session is the brother of Timothy Cole who died in a Texas prison in 1999 while serving a 25-year sentence for a rape he didn’t commit. Nearly a decade later, DNA evidence from the crime posthumously exonerated Cole and implicated another man as the perpetrator.

While both of us have every right to be angry with the government for the years that were stolen from us and our families, instead we’re focused on making sure that other people aren’t wrongfully convicted. Unfortunately, so far the state of Texas has done next to nothing to prevent wrongful convictions and improve the reliability of our justice system, despite the fact that it leads the nation in DNA exonerations.

One small but important thing that the Legislature did last session was to create the Tim Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions to investigate the causes of, and ways to prevent, wrongful convictions.



The most important recommendation of the Tim Cole Advisory Panel was to reform the state’s eyewitness identification procedures. We know from personal experience how mistaken eyewitness identifications can ruin people’s lives. It is the greatest cause of wrongful convictions in Texas, accounting for more than 85 percent of DNA exonerations. The Tim Cole Advisory Panel recommended that all law enforcement agencies adopt written eyewitness identification procedures based on science and best practices. The report also recommended that to prevent false confessions, the state should adopt a mandatory electronic recording policy for custodial interrogations in high-level felonies.



Reforming eyewitness identification procedures will cost nothing, but could improve the dependability of our justice system, prevent us from destroying numerous innocent lives, and save the state millions in reduced spending on compensating the wrongfully convicted.


Read the full op-ed

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Read about eyewitness misidentification

as a cause of wrongful conviction

and

reforms to prevent misidentifications

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