Texas leads the nation in many things —unfortunately, not all of them good. Along with New York and Illinois, Texas is among the top three offenders when it comes to wrongful criminal convictions. The case of Michael Morton, in particular, has recently called attention to the mishandlings of justice that are all too common, and now Texas lawmakers are considering ways to buckle down on mistakes.
On Tuesday, the Texas House of Representatives passed House Bill 166. The bill would create the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission, a nine-member team tasked with reviewing exonerated defendants in order to root out the causes of wrongful convictions and to make recommendations for avoiding such mistakes in the future. The bill is named after Timothy Cole, an African-American man who died in prison after serving 13 years for a rape that he did not commit.
Should the bill continue through the Senate and past Governor Perry’s desk, the new commission will serve as an independent review of mistakes made in judicial procedures. The Dallas Morning News compares the commission’s job to the federal oversight of plane crashes: just as airlines can’t necessarily be trusted to police their own mistakes, so too does the judicial system need an outside critic. The nine governor-appointed members of the commission will study the cases of exonerated convicts using peer-reviewed research and