Saturday, May 30, 2009

Last ditch effort to salvage eyewitness ID reform fails

In the wake of yet another DNA exoneration based on faulty eyewitness testimony, the 20th out of Dallas, state Sen. Rodney Ellis and Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins held a press conference yesterday at the state capitol calling for immediate action by the Legislature, before it shuts down on Monday, to pass legislation requiring law enforcement agencies to have written procedures on presenting photo lineups.

Sen. Ellis called on the House of Representatives to appoint a conference committee on HB 498, the Innocence Commission study bill approved with amendments this week by the Texas Senate, and suggested that the conference committee be authorized to "go outside the bounds" in order to include eyewitness ID legislation. Sure enough, a couple of hours later, Rep. Ruth McLendon did indeed ask the House to appoint a conference committee for HB 498 (made up of Thompson, Hodge, Moody, Pierson, and McLendon as chair). Senate conferees should be appointed today. (UPDATE: Senate conferees are Huffman, Hegar, Carona, Whitmire, and Ellis as chair.)

Once Senate conferees are named, the conference committee can propose a resolution to go "outside the bounds" to add the eyewitness ID bill to the existing language.

As has been the case since session began, time is the main enemy as the eyewitness ID legislation has always had broad support. SB 117 passed 31-0 in the Senate and was poised to pass easily in the House (in this writer's opinion) before it was delayed to death by the ignominious voter ID fight.

FINAL UPDATE: What a disappointment! The conference committee report (pdf) not only failed to add SB 117 on eyewitness ID, they actually stripped out the two good bills amended onto HB 498 in the Senate. Given that the House had already finally approved HB 498 before Rep. McLendon made a motion to reconsider and sent the legislation to conference committee, this gambit seized defeat from the jaws of victory, leaving only a "study bill" on an innocence commission and eliminating the substantive portions of the legislation.


Anonymous said...

It will be business as usual then in Texas then. There's not enough interest in changing this. Judging from the reaction to 40 DNA Exonerations, Texans DONT CARE so why should the legislature change anything. Maybe the good ole boys will care after 80 DNA Exonerations but I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Jerry Lee Evans is the 20th Dallas DNA exoneree. But according to this blog, he was thief. I wish there was more discussion of the "innocence".


Gritsforbreakfast said...

"I wish there was more discussion of the 'innocence'."

From the linked story: "DNA testing shows he is not the man who raped an 18-year-old Southern Methodist University freshman at knifepoint."

Seems pretty straightforward to me. He was convicted for something he didn't do and the real rapist went free. What's not to understand?