A little earlier this week, the Dallas Morning News ran an Op-Ed piece by Chief Justice Jefferson titled “It’s time that the state investigates cases that resulted in DNA-evidence exoneration”.
The Chief advocates a commission to study the cases in which the courts have already exonerated an inmate based on DNA evidence to extract lessons about how to reduce the risk of error in future cases. As the article notes, this echoes a call that he previously made to the Legislature:
The second crucial needâ€”one that I also mentioned in my 2005 addressâ€” concerns the unfortunate reality that our criminal justice system, on rare occasions, convicts the innocent. I recognize that the convicted often falsely claim to be innocent, but we know, right here in Texas, that some of our inmates have been exonerated by DNA testing. I cannot imagine wasting away in prison for a crime I did not commit. Can you?
Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, State of the Judiciary Address 2007, at page 6.
This week’s article makes that number more concrete, explaining that Texas has already had 30 exonerations based on DNA evidence since 2001. I had no idea the number was so high. As one bright spot, each of those exonerations (in addition to freeing someone wrongly convicted) would provide a case study for the proposed commission.