Hello everyone! It’s Ana Yáñez-Correa again.
Today is a great day for justice in
- The Task Force unanimously approved the grant proposal for the new
Public Defender Office. I don’t have to say that this is an historic occasion for Harris County Harris County, and it is due to the amazing work of Senator Ellis, his staff, and long-time advocates (and our dear friends) from : Mary L. Ramos, Howard Jefferson, Rev. William A. Lawson, Rev. Robert Jefferson, and others. We also want to acknowledge the hard work of Harris County officials in collaborating with Task Force staff to create a strong proposal for the new public defender office. This office is a monumental undertaking that will include misdemeanor mental health and appellate divisions, both scheduled to begin taking cases on February 1, 2011, as well as juvenile and felony trial cases which will begin a year later. Here you will find an article from the Houston Chronicle about Harris County 's grant. Harris County
- In addition to the Harris County Public Defender Office, the Task Force awarded discretionary funds to help establish Montgomery County’s Managed Assigned Council Program (MACP). It is the first of its kind in
and will provide direct client services to indigent defendants suffering from mental health issues. Modeled in part after the San Mateo County Bar Association Private Defender Program in Texas California, the Montgomery Countyprogram is unique in because it will be led by attorneys in the local defense bar. The MACP will provide specially trained defense attorneys, case management, and investigative/expert services to assist defendants on the county’s mental health docket. Once the program is running at full capacity, county officials estimate that a panel of 12 private attorneys will serve a client base of approximately 600 indigent defendants. This well-considered program includes objectives to measure attorney performance, which provides increased accountability, and reduce recidivism. It truly presents great potential for replication in other counties across Texas . I had a chance to speak with Judge Cara Wood before today’s meeting and she seems genuinely excited about getting this program up and running. Considering all the potential for this program (including greater independence from the judiciary), Judge Wood and the rest of Texas have plenty to be excited about. Montgomery County
- As important as these new opportunities for public defense in
are, today was particularly meaningful because the Task Force voted to forward the final recommendations, nearly a year of work in the making, by the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel to a wide range of stakeholders. In attendance were the family members of Timothy Cole – an innocent man mistakenly identified, wrongfully prosecuted, and convicted, who later died while in prison. His family members continued to demonstrate their amazing grace with policy-makers, stakeholders, and justice system practitioners. They knew their son and brother was innocent and stood by him through his dying day as the justice system failed repeatedly, and their response to this injustice was to move forward and build relationships with those who are charged with ensuring justice in Texas . Even today, they honor him in their continued dedication to ensuring that known best practices become a reality in the Texas justice system. The family thanked the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel members and the Task Force for their work, culminating in specific recommendations for best practices in eyewitness identification procedures, the recording of custodial interrogations, and evidence discovery procedures, as well as expanded opportunities for DNA testing for post-conviction proceedings. Texas
But in light of today’s great accomplishments, we must recognize the Task Force board members, the Task Force Director, Jim Bethke, and his dedicated team for their amazing work in collaborating with a diverse range of stakeholders and community advocates to move each of these projects forward successfully!