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Bill Would Change DNA Testing Procedures in Death Penalty Cases (Updated)

Veronica Zaragovia

Update: A Texas Senate committee passed a bill last night that would require DNA testing of evidence in cases involving the death penalty.

The proposal will now go to the full senate for a vote.

Original Story (April 9, 2013, 5:24 p.m.) Texas lawmakers are weighing a bill that would require DNA testing of evidence in cases involving the death penalty.

In the state, local crime labs handle DNA testing at the discretion of local law enforcement. State Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), wants to change that.

Working with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, Sen. Ellis has authored a bill that would require the state to pay for DNA testing before death penalty trials begin.

Kristin Houlé of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty told KUT focusing on DNA testing is not enough.

"DNA evidence is not available in all cases and so we cannot mistake this as some sort of solution for all that ails our criminal justice system," Houlé said. "There still will be many flaws and failures in the criminal justice system."

Sen. Ellis says lawmakers can address other evidence in the future.

"But right now this is a big step on that long road to giving us justice in America," he said.

According to the Texas Innocence Project, the state leads the nation in the number of wrongful convictions exposed by modern DNA testing.

This bill is intended to clear the innocent before they can be wrongly convicted. 

The Senate Criminal Justice committee could vote on the measure as soon as tonight.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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