More people have been freed through DNA testing in Texas than in any other state in the country, and these exonerations have revealed deep flaws in the state’s criminal justice system. Thirty-five of the 41 DNA exonerations in Texas involved eyewitness misidentifications.
In an op-ed Saturday in the Houston Chronicle, Texas Senator Rodney Ellis and Innocence Project of Texas Policy Director Cory Session outlined the steps needed to improve the justice system in order to protect the innocent and called on the state’s political leaders to provide justice.
Sen. Ellis is the Innocence Project’s Board of Directors Chairman, and Session is the brother of Tim Cole, a Texas man who was posthumously pardoned a decade after he died in prison when DNA evidence proved his innocence. While the work of the
Timothy Cole Advisory Panel
represents a significant step forward for criminal justice reform in Texas, Ellis and Session write that reforms are still needed, including improving eyewitness identification procedures, mandatory electronic recording of custodial interrogations and access to post-conviction DNA testing. They also call for the formation of a “fully functioning” Texas Forensic Science Commission.
Now the ball is in the Legislature’s court. We call on the Legislature and the next governor to make the reliability and integrity of our criminal justice system a top priority in the coming session – fairness and justice shouldn’t be partisan issues.