(Austin, TX) // Today, the Texas legislature passed SB 487, legislation to improve access to DNA testing for wrongfully convicted Texans. The bill now heads to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk for his consideration.
“By making small fixes to the law, my bill ensures that wrongfully convicted Texans have meaningful access to advanced crime-solving technology to prove their innocence and assist law enforcement in finding the actual perpetrators,” said Senator Rodney Ellis, author of SB 487.
“Advanced DNA testing technology supports justice driven legislation such as SB 487, that assists law enforcement in prosecuting the right perpetrators and providing innocent persons the freedoms wrongfully stripped from them,” said Representative Senfronia Thompson, sponsor of SB 487.
At a press conference on the bill earlier this session, DNA exoneree Michael Morton explained his support of the bill: “I may never have been able to prove my innocence under the current interpretation of the law,” said Morton, who was wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife Christine in 1987. “It was only because DNA testing detected invisible cells that excluded me and matched Mark Norwood’s profile in the DNA database that I was finally exonerated and my wife’s real killer was brought to justice. The law should be clarified so that other wrongfully convicted Texans like me can prove their innocence.”
SB 487 clarifies that a judge has the authority to grant DNA testing in situations where the judge determines there is a “reasonable likelihood” that credible, exculpatory biological evidence exists and meets the numerous standards for access to testing under Chapter 64 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. SB 487 will enable a judge to allow testing on key evidence that is not readily visible but is likely to contain probative biological material – which may include tape, ligature, fingernail scrapings and other items.