"Texas Lawmakers to Discuss Repealing Death Penalty," is Chris Tomlinson's AP filing, via KXAS-TV.
Texas lawmakers will hear testimony on a bill to repeal the death penalty.
A Democratic lawmaker from Houston has introduced the measure, and the House Criminal Justice committee will consider it on Monday.
Rep. Jessica Farrar and some other Democrats have repeatedly called for an end to the death penalty. But the ultim ate punishment remains popular in Texas, and her measure is unlikely to gain traction.
More on Rep. Farrar's House Bill 1703 is at the Texas Legislature Online website.
The San Antonio Express-News reports, "Texas House OKs review of wrongful convictions," by Michelle Casady.
It had been nearly a 10-year struggle, but last week, with little opposition in a 115-28 vote, the Texas House passed legislation that would allow for the creation of an exoneration commission to review wrongful convictions.
HB 166, authored by state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, is championed by some legislators and innocence project groups as a step forward for the state. Texas is among the leaders nationwide in wrongful conviction cases, with 119, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.
But some prosecutors worry about unintended consequences of the bill, including conflicts of interest stemming from the proposed private and grant funding of the commission and even the end of the death penalty in Texas.
Justin Wood, an assistant district attorney in Harris County, told a House panel he opposed the bill that would create the Timothy Cole Exoneration Commission — named after a man wrongfully convicted of rape in Lubbock who died in prison in 1999 but was given the first posthumous pardon in the state.
House passage of the bill came a week after the Senate unanimously approved SB 1292, which would require mandatory DNA testing in cases where the defendant faces the death penalty.
The bill's author, state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said he's gotten similar bills passed by the Senate two times before, only to later see them die.
“You never declare victory on a piece of legislation until it's on the governor's desk and you have a pretty clear indication he's going to sign it,” he said of the 31-0 vote. “That being said, even when it did pass in previous years, it certainly was never unanimous.”
McClendon credited a new era of “civility” in the House for her bill's bipartisan support.
Jordan Smith posts, "One Step Closer to Preventing Wrongful Convictions," at the Austin Chronicle.
House Bill 166, authored by Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, would create the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission, named for a man who died in prison while serving time for a sexual assault he did not commit. The commission would be tasked with reviewing criminal cases where there has been a formal exoneration, in an attempt to find the root causes of the wrongful conviction and to make recommendations for avoiding future miscarriages of justice.
Backers of the measure have tried to move the bill through in previous sessions without success. This time around, with a wealth of bipartisan support, the measure is in much better shape. Nonetheless, backers on the House floor were faced with a number of probing questions, mostly from Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, who took issue with some language within the measure: Why would the commission not be subject to sunset until 2025, he asked, and why does the bill mention "wrongful execution" if this is about wrongful convictions? An amendment by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, reduced the time to sunset to eight years, or 2021. As for the wrongful execution language, Leach – who has signed on with Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, as a joint author of the bill – said the idea was to prevent all wrongful convictions. Indeed, among Texas' confirmed wrongful convictions are those who were sentenced to die, but who escaped that punishment – including Anthony Graves and Clarence Brandley.
More on Rep. McClendon's HB 166 is at the link.
"Texas Prosecutors No Longer Unassailable," is Ross Ramsey's excellent analysis at the Texas Tribune. Here's the beginning:
An elected prosecutor used to have one of the most respected jobs at any level of Texas government.
District attorneys were often big personalities — the courtroom muscle of the criminal justice system, the people showing up on TV to play out the real-life version of “truth, justice and the American way.” Candidates for Texas attorney general — an office with almost no duties in criminal law — have tried to capture the crime-busting aura of prosecutors for years. It was strong stuff in a political arena.
Running a political campaign against a sitting prosecutor in Texas was a job for egotistic dunces and legal-minded Quixotes. Even weak DA’s were invincible.
But a strange thing is happening in the impervious ranks of high-profile Texas prosecutors. That cachet is taking a beating.
One prosecutor is in jail. A former district attorney is facing charges related to sending an innocent man to jail. One county spent nearly $400,000 settling a sexual harassment charge against its DA. Another prosecutor is fighting contempt of court charges after refusing to testify in a prosecutorial misconduct inquiry.
Earlier coverage from this year's Texas legislative session begins at the link; also available, coverage of the Ken Anderson Court of Inquiry.