Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Reform efforts in Texas and elsewhere

It is becoming increasingly common to see state commissions devoted to reducing wrongful convictions. These commissions often focus on three key sources of error: mistaken eyewitness testimony, false confessions, and snitches, although there are many additional subjects as well. For example, the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice proposed several legislative reforms in this vein--the jailhouse informant corroboration reforms were passed twice by the California legislature but vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. Wisconsin recently established the Wisconsin Criminal Justice Study Commission. In 2002, North Carolina created a special commission to review post-conviction innocence claims.

In this same vein, Texas has established the Tim Cole Advisory Panel to reduce wrongful convictions in the state, and one of its missions is to examine the use of informants. Here's a recent news story about the Commission's visit to Tarrant County, Texas, in which the district attorney maintains a much-praised open-file policy. Here's an excerpt from GritsforBreakfast coverage of the panel's first meeting: Good vibes at Tim Cole Advisory Panel on false convictions.