There was a recent victory in the state Senate for Texas criminal defense lawyers and their clients.
The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 825, authored by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, which attempts to bring more accountability to prosecutors accused of withholding evidence in cases that result in wrongful convictions. With the Senate's blessing, the bill will now move on to the House, where a companion bill, House Bill 1921, has been filed by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston.
Senator Whitmire has said that his bill was inspired by Michael Morton, a Texas man who was accused of killing his wife in 1986 and spent almost 25 years in jail before DNA evidence set him free in 2011. Although the DNA proved his innocence, Morton's lawyers feel that Ken Anderson, the prosecutor in the original trial, withheld evidence that would have been critical to Morton's defense. Anderson is now a state district judge in Williamson County, but he firmly denies the allegations.
There are quite a few other bills focused on decreasing wrongful convictions that lawmakers are also looking at. These bills include SB 1611 (Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston) and HB 1426 (state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso). Both of those measures seek to codify the requirement that prosecutors share certain information with defense attorneys before a trial begins, allowing that evidence to play a part in proving a defendant’s innocence.
It is great to see our Senator and state Representatives playing such an active role in preventing wrongful convictions. Trials should not be about "winning" or "losing." If a defendant is not guilty, information should always be shared to protect them.
If you have been accused of a crime in Texas and need help, contact Waco criminal defense attorney Walter Reaves for a free consultation by calling 254-296-0020.