Texas Lawmakers Push for Exoneration Commission Bill
On Tuesday, the Texas House will vote on HB 166, a bill that would create the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission.
This so-called innocence commission would investigate past exoneration cases to find out why the wrongful conviction happened in the first place. The group would not intervene in pending cases or open cases without an exoneration.
Today, a press conference took place at the Capitol to explain the measure.
The bill was written by a group of bipartisan lawmakers, including State Rep. Ruth McClendon, D-San Antonio, State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso and State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano. It also has support from State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.
Billy Smith of Dallas is an exoneree who spoke at the conference. He was arrested, tried and wrongfully convicted in 1986. He spent 20 years in prison in Huntsville and was released in 2006.
"I did the time for another man's crime and I thank God we have people now who are interested in helping make a change so that no one else will have to endure what I've had to endure in my lifetime," Smith said. "Even though DNA helped to clear me, I still think I have a right to know why I was convicted."
At the conference, Rep. McClendon said opponents of creating a commission say other agencies could be doing this work already.