Senate Approves Eyewitness ID Reform

The Texas Senate unanimously approved a bill today that would revamp eyewitness identification policies used by law enforcement agencies.

The bill would require departments to adopt written eyewitness identification policies based on best practices and would require the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas at Sam Houston State University to develop a policy and training materials for local law enforcement agencies. In Texas, 85 percent of the 44 people who have been exonerated based on DNA tests were wrongfully convicted, at least in part, due to mistaken eyewitness identifications. And the Justice Project in 2008 found that only 12 percent of Texas police departments had guidelines for conducting lineups.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, the bill's author, filed a similar bill last session that also passed the Senate but stalled in the House. The measure was a recommendation made by the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions,

"Eyewitness reform is a very simple, straightforward change to help create a smarter, more just system," Ellis said in a statement released after the bill passed.

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