The Texas House, aiming to reduce the number of wrongful convictions, approved legislation Wednesday that would require law enforcement agencies to begin standardizing the way eyewitnesses identify criminal suspects.
The unanimously approved bill would require police to adopt written policies to determine how they conduct photographic or live lineups. Agencies would be encouraged, but not required, to develop blind procedures whereby the person administering a live lineup doesn’t know who the suspect is. Judges still would be given wide discretion on what evidence to admit in court.
Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, said he sponsored the bill to cut down on the leading cause of wrongful convictions. Misidentification of suspects by eyewitnesses is responsible for 75 percent of the convictions overturned by DNA evidence, according to The Innocence Project, a non-profit working to free wrongfully incarcerated people.
Rep. Gallego’s bill is HB215, which now goes to the Senate; the Senate has already unanimously approved Sen. Rodney Ellis’ SB121, which is mostly the same. Assuming nothing unusual, a bill will be on its way to Governor Perry’s desk shortly. Grits has more.