Senate passes criminal lineup bill - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Senate passes criminal lineup bill

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AUSTIN, Texas — Police in Texas would have to adopt written policies for conducting live and photo identification lineups of criminal suspects under a bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday that seeks to avoid wrongful convictions.

Texas leads the nation in the number of convicts exonerated with DNA evidence, with more than 40 people released from prison since 1994, according to the National Innocence Project. Most of those cases involved eyewitnesses picking the wrong person out of a lineup.

The bill grew from recommendations from the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions. Cole was the first Texan to be posthumously exonerated of a crime by DNA testing. Cole was wrongly convicted of a rape he did not commit in 1986, and died in prison in 1999 while serving a 25-year sentence.

Under his original sentence, Cole would have been released this year.

Several former inmates who served decades in prison before their convictions were overturned have testified in support of the bill.

Studies have found that only about 12 percent of Texas law enforcement agencies have written policies for lineups.

The bill by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, directs experts at Sam Houston State University to work with law enforcement agencies to develop a model policy. It would include guidelines for instructions given to witnesses before they view a lineup, documentation of witness statements, how to deal with illiterate or non-English speaking witnesses or suspects, and making sure the lineup administrator does not know which member of live lineup is the suspect.

"Eyewitness reform is a very simple, straightforward change to help create a smarter, more just system," Ellis said.

The Senate passed a similar version in 2009. Wednesday's 30-0 vote sends the bill to the House, which is considering similar legislation.