Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Texas House Passes Legislation to Standardize Eyewitness Identifications

While communities in Texas are certainly safer every time a violent criminal is put behind bars, it is tragic when we learn of someone who was wrongfully convicted and spent years in prison for a crime he did not commit. The Texas House has taken a major step in reducing the probability that an innocent person will be incorrectly fingered for a crime with a vote taken Wednesday in its chambers.

The legislation, which was approved unanimously, would require police departments to adopt written guidelines concerning how photographic or live lineups would be conducted. One recommendation included in the language of the bill, but that will not be required, is that agencies select someone who does not know the identity of the suspect to administer the lineup.

Members of law enforcement could still gather eyewitness identifications that did not follow the determined procedures and judges would have wide latitude in deciding what evidence to allow, but the legislation would give criminal defense attorneys a stronger case to question witness credibility.

The argued need for this legislation stems from the fact the 75% of convictions that were later overturned by DNA evidence were based on an erroneous identification from an eyewitness. It grew out of the investigations conducted by the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, named for a Texan who was cleared posthumously of the crimes for which he spent more than a decade in prison.

If you have been accused of a crime and you need an experienced lawyer to defend your innocence, the criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today and let's discuss your case.