Bill To Establish Exoneration Commission Expected To Pass Senate

Apr 24, 2013

The Texas House overwhelming approved House Bill 166, a bill that would set up a governor-appointed exoneration commission.

Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, authored the bill that sets up the Timothy Cole Exoneration Commission, named after the late Tim Cole who died in prison before his name could be cleared.

On the House floor, fellow colleagues like Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, asked McClendon about the 117 exonerations Texas has seen in the last 25 years.

Toth: "Did any of them get an explanation as to why they were sent to jail wrongfully? Did any of them be given a reason why or what went wrong in the their case?"

McClendon: "No, that’s the problem, that's the problem. These men and women were sent to prison, convicted and allowed to stay in prison and, I hate to say it, rot in prison."

Some on the House floor were skeptical about the scope of the bill. Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, questioned what would happen to those who have prosecuted or presided over a wrongful conviction.

"I don’t have a problem with the commission saying, 'Hey, I think this judge did wrong.' I don’t understand why a finding in an unelected panel is going to be used in a subsequent civil or criminal proceeding," Phillips said.

The bill passed on a second reading and the House still has a third recorded vote before it moves to the Senate, where it is expected to pass without any complications.