(Austin, TX) // Today, the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs approved HB 48 on a 6 to 0 vote. The bill, which creates a exoneration review commission to study wrongful convictions, now goes to the full Senate for consideration. HB 48 is authored by Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio) and sponsored by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston).
“Texas has had more total exonerations and DNA exonerations than any other state in the country,” said Senator Ellis. “With this continuous flow of proven exonerations, we know with absolute certainty that tragic mistakes are occurring in our criminal justice system, and it is our duty and obligation to fix them. The conviction of the innocent not only ruins innocent lives, but it also harms public safety by allowing guilty perpetrators to remain free and destroying public trust in our justice system.”
Senator Ellis continued: “I want to commend Rep. McClendon for her hard work and perseverance in working to develop bipartisan support for a bipartisan concept. I look forward to working with my fellow Senators to push her bill to the finish line.”
The committee substitute to HB 48 creates the Tim Cole Exoneration Review Commission to bring together trusted criminal justice experts to review proven wrongful convictions, identify the main causes of those convictions, and recommend more reliable practices to improve public safety and prevent such tragedies from reoccurring in the future.
The Commission would review convictions of innocent people in much the same way as the National Transportation Safety Board investigates major accidents. 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. The Commission would provide similar safeguards to ensure justice is served in our state.
Yesterday, Senator Ellis met with a group of exonerees who were at the Capitol advocating for criminal justice reforms, including HB 48. The gentlemen each served over 20 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.