Wrongful-Conviction Bill Moves Toward Passage in House

The House got closer Wednesday to locking in measures to reduce the number of wrongful convictions in Texas.

Timothy Cole

The House got closer Wednesday to locking in measures to reduce the number of wrongful convictions in Texas, preliminarily passing a bill by Rep. Ruth McClendon, D-San Antonio.

The bill would create a nine-member commission to investigate cases of wrongful conviction. The commission would also write an annual report to identify the causes of wrongful convictions.

In Texas, DNA evidence has exonerated 43 people — more than in any other state.

McClendon said lawmakers cannot stand by and do nothing while innocent people are convicted of crimes they did not commit.

Under two separate and adopted amendments, the commission would not rule on the constitutionality of sentencing methods, like the death penalty, and would be subject to state open meetings laws, which allow the public to attend government hearings. 

The commission would be named after Timothy Cole, who was posthumously exonerated after a 1986 wrongful rape conviction. Cole died in prison of an asthma attack in 1999.

State representatives voted 82-54 in favor of the bill.

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