Bill calls for more DNA testing in capital cases

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by JESSICA VESS / KVUE News & Photojournalist KENNETH NULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @JessicaV_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on March 19, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 19 at 11:21 AM

AUSTIN -- Lawmakers at the State Capitol are working to put DNA testing at the top of capital cases.

Senator Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, filed a bill this session to amend the criminal procedure. Senate Bill 1292 calls for DNA evidence testing in capital cases where the defendant is facing the death penalty.

Attorney General Greg Abbott supports the bill. Abbott says it will help end the continuous stream of appeals in court. He cited two recent cases of death row inmates Henry Skinner and Anthony Bartee. Both defendants filed numerous appeals for DNA testing following their convictions. The appeals ultimately stretched both cases out over nearly two decades.

Abbott and Ellis say SB 1292 could prevent such delays by ensuring all potential DNA testing is completed before trial. That same testing, they say, could also clear innocent people before their conviction.

“When we get it wrong, not only is an innocent person's freedom taken away, but a truly guilty person is free and emboldened to commit more crimes,” said Senator Ellis.

According to SB 1292, the testing task would fall upon the Department of Public Safety. DPS would test all biological evidence collected in the investigation. The state would pay for those tests.

If approved, the bill would take effect Sept. 1.

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