Eyewitness ID Reform Headed to Perry's Desk

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, speaks against the motion to adopt the Senate version of the state budget on May 4, 2011.
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, speaks against the motion to adopt the Senate version of the state budget on May 4, 2011.

The Senate today approved a measure that would reform the way law enforcement officers conduct identification lineups, a measure that criminal justice advocates hope will mean fewer wrongful convictions in the future. Under HB 215, police across the state would be required to adopt best practices for photo lineups and live lineups.

"It enacts a simple best practice to ensure we have reliable evidence in our courtrooms to ensure the conviction of the guilty and the protection of the innocent," said state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

In Texas, 38 of the 44 exonerees who were cleared based on DNA evidence were initially convicted with erroneous eyewitness testimony, Ellis said. Nationwide, about 75 percent of the 266 exonerations were a result of eyewitness mistakes.

The Tim Cole Advisory Panel recommended changes to eyewitness identification practices in police departments. And a Justice Project report from November 2008 showed that only 12 percent of police departments in Texas even have written policies or guidelines for conducting lineups.

The measure now moves to Gov. Rick Perry, who can sign it, veto it or simply let it become law without his signature.

 

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