A DNA-testing bill seeking to prevent wrongful convictions, restore faith in the state’s justice system and prevent costly delays to state executions passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday in a unanimous vote.
Senate Bill 1292 requires the state pay for all biological evidence to be collected and DNA tested prior to a trial in cases where the defendant could receive the death penalty.
“This modest but vitally important reform will help reduce the possibility that the ultimate mistake is made with someone receiving the ultimate penalty,” said Houston Democrat Sen. Rodney Ellis, who partnered with Attorney General Greg Abbott to write the legislation, in a press release. “The fact of the matter is that we have already dodged just such a bullet thanks to advocates for the wrongfully convicted.”
Anthony Graves, who was exonerated in 2010, spent 16 years on death row for a murder he did not commit.
He’s not alone.
Texas has paid more than $50 million to more than 80 exonerees since enacting legislation to compensate the wrongfully convicted for time spent in prison, although only some of them faced the death penalty and would have been affected by this bill.
DNA testing fueled a growing national movement to keep the innocent out of prisons and convict the true perpetrators. To date, there have been 303 post-conviction DNA exonerations nationwide, according to the national Innocence Project.