FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 04/24/2013
Texas House of Representatives Passes House Bill 166
Texas House of Representatives Passes House Bill 166, creating the "Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission"
AUSTIN - Today, the Texas House of Representatives championed a tremendous victory for freedom by passing House Bill 166, addressing the growing trend of wrongful convictions in Texas. Named after Timothy Cole, who served 13 years in prison for a rape he did not commit, this legislation establishes the “Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission,” a nine-member commission appointed by the Governor to investigate wrongful convictions for the purpose of singling out the core causes of exonerations. The commission would identify problems in the criminal justice system and any patterns of prosecutorial misconduct, and would be tasked with proposing solutions through legislation or procedural reforms all at no expense to the taxpayer.
Research shows that the number of wrongful convictions has increased at an unprecedented rate. Since 1989, Texas has experienced well over 100 exonerations and continues to lead the nation, alongside Illinois and New York, in wrongful convictions. Dallas County alone has reported 24 exonerations over the last 12 years, the second highest county in the nation. Since 1992, Texas has paid more than $65 million in compensation to 89 exonerees.
A Joint Author of the bill, Representative Leach stated, "I believe the most basic duty of government is to protect innocent life – from the womb to the tomb – which is why I am equally as passionate about protecting innocent defendants as I am about protecting the unborn. The disturbing, growing trend of wrongful convictions in Texas has been swept under the rug for far too long and we owe it to our citizens to make this right. I believe House Bill 166 is a substantial step in the right direction and I am proud to serve as a Joint Author."
Representative Leach serves House District 67 in the Texas House of Representatives, representing portions of Plano, Allen, Richardson and Dallas in Collin County. He serves on the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, the House Committee on Urban Affairs and the House Committee on Rules and Resolutions.