Monday, November 03, 2008

DA Watch: Legislator Promises Action to Fight Against DA's Wrongful Convictions

Well, it's good to know that someone's paying attention to the Dallas Morning News scoop on known wrongful convictions of innocent men and women by the DA here in Dallas besides a blogger or two (see this blog's October 13, 2008 post)....

State Senator Rodney Ellis Has A Plan for Laws to Fix the Eyewitness Identification Problem

State Senator Rodney Ellis (who represents District 13, covering parts of Harris and Fort Bend counties) actually wrote a column in the Dallas Morning News last month, where he promised to:

1. introduce legislation in 2009 to reduce the likelihood of an innocent person being convicted in the future with laws requiring that eyewitness identification procedures be based in science and implemented by trained law enforcement personnel;

2. introduce legislation in 2009 to pass a law that will require videotaping of custodial interrogations, arguing that this will not only stop false confessions but also false claims of police brutality as well as disclosing any deals made with informants for their testimony; and

3. introduce legislation to create an Integrity Commission within the Texas Legislature, if the Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit created within the Texas Judiciary (i.e., formed by Justice Barbara Hervey of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals) doesn't hit the ball out of the park in reform aimed at preventing the conviction of innocent people in this state.

What About Ellis' Proposals?

Rodney Ellis is known for advocating criminal justice reform, and he's been one of the first appointees to Justice Hervey's Integrity Unit. He's not new to the scene here, trying to grab a headline or two: this isn't Ellis's first rodeo.

And, writing a short column for the Dallas paper might not be the proper place for details on how Ellis intends to implement his ideas.

Nevertheless, an argument can be made that we already have trained law enforcement personnel that are supposed to use scientific techniques (proper lineups, not show-ups) and it's just not happening when zealots are anxious for a quick conviction.

Academics have shown that eyewitness testimony has historically resulted in more wrongful convictions than all other causes, combined (See source link, below). Good luck to Senator Ellis on finding the cure.

As for the videotaping of custodial interrogations? You don't have to watch many episodes of Law & Order to figure out that taping the formal interrogation isn't going to stop police brutality and false confessions. It's just going to move the bad stuff down the hall.


"Rodney Ellis: Lowering odds that innocents end up in prison," Dallas Morning News, October 21, 2008

Eyewitness Identification Procedures: Recommendations for Lineups and Photospreads, Law & Human Behavior Vol. 22, No. 6 (1998)

For More Information:

DA Watch: Dallas County Prosecutors Routinely Convicted Innocent Men Using Eyewitness Testimony Known to Be Faulty

No comments: