Cole Commission releases findings on wrongful convictions



Posted on August 25, 2010 at 5:13 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 25 at 8:51 PM

AUSTIN -- A state commission Wednesday released long-awaited recommendations on how to reduce the number of defendants wrongly convicted in Texas, but come January it will be up to the Texas legislature to decide whether those recommendations become reality.

In 2009, the state created the Timothy Cole Commission to study Texas' criminal justice system.
"People who have been waiting in prison cells are tired too, and we ought not give up on them or on our criminal justice system,” said State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who will champion the findings on the Senate side in the 82nd Legislative Session.
The commission recommends improving standards for eyewitness identification, requiring law enforcement to record interrogations, giving those convicted more chances to appeal, and funding commissions to uncover errant convictions.
State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, will lead the charge in the House. In a session likely to be dominated by the budget, she makes a fiscal case for adopting the commission's findings.
"It's wasteful to spend tax payer dollars, public money, on prosecuting and imprisoning someone who is wrongly charged and then convicted,” McClendon said.
The nightmare for Timothy Cole and his family began in 1985 when he was wrongly convicted of raping a student at Texas Tech. Ten years after he died in prison, a judge finally cleared his name citing DNA evidence.
After a years-long fight, Cole’s family joined legislators at the Capitol Wednesday. They presented findings they hope will keep other families from enduring the same tiring quest for truth.
"I've always have faith, and always believed that done day this would happen, and it has happened,” said Ruby Session, Cole’s mother, at a court hearing during which her son’s name was cleared once and for all.
The full findings of the commission can be found here.