Innocent Defendants Plead Guilty in Drug Cases
In two articles this week, the
reported that 21 men and women in Texas were recently exonerated of drug convictions to which many plead guilty. Many of the defendants had prior convictions when they were arrested for possession of illegal drugs. Consequently, the bond was set higher than what most of the 21 individuals could pay, causing them to remain in jail while awaiting judgment. The wait created pressure for early plea bargains, and as a result, many sat in prison for years before a delayed forensic lab report proved their innocence.
According to the reports, the two forensic lab systems, operated by the Houston Police Department and the state Department of Public Safety, said their large caseloads meant that waits of six months or more for test results were common. More than half of the wrongful drug convictions occurred in Houston with the rest spread out between Williamson, Ellis, Galveston, Angelina and Montgomery counties.
Out of the 21 cases, only two of the drug case exonerees have received compensation from the state. Texas’ compensation statute provides the wrongly convicted with $80,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment with no maximum total.
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