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Actual Innocence – Establishing Innocence or Guilt The Use of DNA March 8-10, 2010 Jim Bethke, Director, Task Force on Indigent Defense

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Presentation on theme: "Actual Innocence – Establishing Innocence or Guilt The Use of DNA March 8-10, 2010 Jim Bethke, Director, Task Force on Indigent Defense"— Presentation transcript:

1 Actual Innocence – Establishing Innocence or Guilt The Use of DNA March 8-10, 2010 Jim Bethke, Director, Task Force on Indigent Defense

2 HB 498 Established: Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, a bi-partisan group charged with assisting the Task Force on Indigent Defense (Task Force) with preparing a report with recommendations for preventing wrongful convictions

3 Membership The Honorable John Whitmire Chair, Criminal Justice Committee, Texas Senate The Honorable Jeff Wentworth Chair, Jurisprudence Committee, Texas Senate The Honorable Jim McReynolds Chair, Corrections Committee, Texas House of Representatives The Honorable Pete Gallego Chair, Criminal Jurisprudence, Texas House of Representatives Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association: Kathryn M. Kase, Texas Defender Service Mr. Barry Macha President, Texas District and County Attorneys Association Criminal District Attorney, Wichita Co. The Honorable Barbara Hervey Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Four law schools designated: Dr. Sandra Thompson University of Houston Law Center Representative from the Office of the Governor Mary Anne Wiley Deputy General Counsel James D. Bethke Director, Task Force on Indigent Defense

4 Exonerations in Texas 1.Gilbert Alejandro, 3.5 years incarcerated, exonerated in Kevin Byrd, 12 years incarcerated, exonerated in Ben Salazar, 5 years incarcerated, exonerated in A.B. Butler, 16 years incarcerated, exonerated in Roy Criner, 10 years incarcerated, exonerated in Carlos Lavernia, 15 years incarcerated, exonerated in Anthony Robinson, 10 years incarcerated, exonerated in David Pope, 15 years incarcerated, exonerated in Calvin Washington, 13 years incarcerated, exonerated in Mark Webb, 10 years incarcerated, exonerated in Richard Danzinger, 11 years incarcerated, exonerated in Chris Ochoa, 11.5 years incarcerated, exonerated in Victor Thomas, 15 years incarcerated, exonerated in Wiley Fountain, 16 years incarcerated, exonerated in Donald Good, 13.5 years incarcerated, exonerated in Josiah Sutton, 4.5 years incarcerated, exonerated in Entre Karage, 6.5 years incarcerated, exonerated in Brandon Moon, 17 years incarcerated, exonerated in Keith Turner, 4 years incarcerated, exonerated in George Rodriguez, 17 years incarcerated, exonerated in Arthur Mumphrey, 17.5 years incarcerated, exonerated in Billy Miller, 22 years incarcerated, exonerated in Eugene Henton, 1.5 years incarcerated, exonerated in Billy Smith, 19 years incarcerated, exonerated in Larry Fuller, 19.5 years incarcerated, exonerated in Andrew Gossett, 7 years incarcerated, exonerated in Greg Wallis, 17 years incarcerated, exonerated in James Waller, 10 years incarcerated, exonerated in James Giles, 10 years incarcerated, exonerated in Steven Phillips, 24 years incarcerated, exonerated in Ronald Taylor, 12 years incarcerated, exonerated in Charles Chatman, 26.5 years incarcerated, exonerated in Michael Blair, 13.5 years incarcerated, exonerated in Thomas McGowan, 23 years incarcerated, exonerated in Patrick Waller, 15.5 years incarcerated, exonerated in Ricardo Rachell, 5.5 years incarcerated, exonerated in Timothy Cole, 13 years incarcerated (passed away in prison), exonerated in Johnnie Lindsey, 27 years incarcerated, exonerated in James Woodard, 27 years incarcerated, formally pardoned in Jerry Lee Evans, 23 years incarcerated, exonerated in (pending) Ernest Sonnier, 23 years, was freed on Friday, August 7, 2009, pending the Court of Criminal Appeals review of the District Court’s recommendation to vacate his conviction.

5 Source: The Justice Project Texas has more wrongful convictions exposed by DNA than any other state in the country Collectively, 39 men (not taking into account the two most recent exonerations) have spent more than 548 years in prison with an average of fourteen years Over $17 million dollars have been paid by state and local governments in civil settlements and statutory compensation to those wrongfully convicted Twelve counties in Texas have uncovered wrongful convictions through DNA evidence Dallas County leads the state in the number of wrongful convictions, a direct result of preserving DNA evidence while other counties destroyed it Nine people have been released from Texas’ death row based on evidence of their innocence

6 Six of the 39 people (not taking into account the two most recent) exonerated from Texas’ death row photo credit: The Justice Project

7 DNA Exonerations by Year The Justice Project:

8 The 39 DNA cases analyzed by The Justice Project clearly indicate that eyewitness misidentification is by far the leading factor in wrongful convictions in Texas.

9 "Any wrongful conviction is a tragedy because it leaves the guilty unpunished and condemns the innocent to prison, or death." -- Wallace B. Jefferson, Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court

10 Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions Purpose Prepare a report on the causes of wrongful conviction, the policies that could be implemented to prevent wrongful convictions, the effects of state law on wrongful convictions, and whether to recommend the creation of an innocence commission. Eyewitness Identification, Informants, and Recording Interrogations Examine existing state law Review existing literature Compile best practices Examine reforms adopted in Texas jurisdictions and other states Recommend best policy for Texas Eyewitness Identification, Informants, and Recording Interrogations Examine existing state law Review existing literature Compile best practices Examine reforms adopted in Texas jurisdictions and other states Recommend best policy for Texas Feasibility of an Innocence Commission Examine previously filed legislation Examine reforms adopted in states Identify advantages and disadvantages Recommend best policy for Texas Feasibility of an Innocence Commission Examine previously filed legislation Examine reforms adopted in states Identify advantages and disadvantages Recommend best policy for Texas Providing a Quality Defense Examine existing state law Review existing literature Compile best practices Examine reforms adopted in Texas jurisdictions and other states Recommend best policy for Texas Providing a Quality Defense Examine existing state law Review existing literature Compile best practices Examine reforms adopted in Texas jurisdictions and other states Recommend best policy for Texas Post-Conviction DNA and Writs of Habeas Corpus Based on Scientific Evidence Examine existing state law Review existing literature Compile best practices Examine reforms adopted in Texas jurisdictions and other states Recommend best policy for Texas Post-Conviction DNA and Writs of Habeas Corpus Based on Scientific Evidence Examine existing state law Review existing literature Compile best practices Examine reforms adopted in Texas jurisdictions and other states Recommend best policy for Texas A Purpose-Driven Plan


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