(Austin, Texas) – Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) released the following statement on HB 166, Tim Cole Exoneration Review Commission:
“Currently, when an innocent person is wrongfully convicted, our system does not have any institutional mechanism to evaluate the conviction, find out what went wrong, and correct the mistakes that caused a miscarriage of justice.
“It is time for Texas to address this critical problem and establish a full-time Innocence Commission.
“A formal Innocence Commission is pivotal for Texas. Texas has had more total exonerations –117 — to date, and DNA exonerations – 48 — than any other state in the country. Those 48 Texans served an average of 13.5 years in prison for a crime they did not commit.
“Just as we learned in the Michael Morton case, when an innocent person is sent to prison for crime they didn’t commit, the real perpetrator is left free to commit more crimes and do more damage to our community.
“When a major airplane, train, or space shuttle accident occurs, an in depth investigation begins within hours to identify the causes and possible remedies to ensure it is not repeated. HB 166 would give us that power, creating the Tim Cole Exoneration Review Commission. It will allow the state of Texas investigate convictions of innocent people in much the same way as the National Transportation Safety Board investigates major accidents.
“States with less well-documented examples of wrongful convictions have already taken the initiative. California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin have all established some sort of a commission or body that investigate wrongful convictions and exonerations.
“It is time for Texas to take the next step in creating a more effective, trusted and just criminal justice system by passing HB 166 and creating a Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission.”