Criminal Law Blog
Exoneration is a bittersweet word. On one hand, an innocent person wrongfully convicted is allowed to go home: it’s a happy day! But on the other hand, it means that the “jury of your peers” is a group of biased, human mistake-makers. The fact that your case can be judged and decided on by people just like us is a great thing and doesn’t happen in many countries. But, as you will come to find out, it has downsides as well.
What do we do when that system is imperfect? How does society work when someone is wrongfully sitting in prison or on death row for a crime they did not commit? Unfortunately, Texas leads the nation in exonerations (aka when someone gets released from their charges because it becomes apparent either he/she did not do it or someone else did). Not only does Texas have the most convictions; according to the National Registry of Exonerations, it has more than twice the number of exonerations of any other state.
With any staggering statistic, we question why it’s happening and what can be done to fix it. Advances in DNA evidence can prove someone did or did not commit a crime. False confessions can happen when felony case interrogations are not recorded and people can sway and pressure an innocent-until-proven-guilty human to admit to something he/she did not do in hopes of easing discomfort. Jailhouse informants can lie about confessions within prison to hopefully lessen their own punishments. And finally, a “Brady Violation.” This can occur when the prosecution suppresses evidence that may be favorable to the defendant. This violates Due Process, our constitutional right to fair treatment through our judicial system, but can happen if your defense attorneys are inexperienced or not focused on your case.
But, there’s hope yet! A few months ago, Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 34, which aims to abolish the need for exonerations. This bill creates tangible changes to make the judicial process more transparent and reliable. Changes include making more rules and taking away rewards surrounding the information provided by jailhouse informants, recording all interrogations or testimonies in cases, and putting in place quality control measures for DNA, drug and rape kit testing. This is a great step in the right direction, but with any change, there will be bumps along the road. Don’t set yourself up for failure by hiring an attorney that doesn’t have your back in these situations.
For a free, confidential consultation contact the Law Offices of Daniel & Hudson at 210-222-2297. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.