criminal justice flaws DNA testing eyewitness identification innocence projects Texas Tim Cole Wrongfully Convicted

Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions Issues Recommendations

The Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions recently concluded its work to study the prevention of wrongful convictions. The panel was established by the state legislature in 2009 and named in memory of Timothy Cole, who died in prison while serving time for a crime he did not commit. Cole was later exonerated by DNA evidence; he received a posthumous pardon from Texas Governor Rick Perry in March of 2010.  

More than 40 people in Texas have been exonerated based on DNA evidence – more than any other state.  According to experts, mistaken eyewitness identification is the leading cause of wrongful conviction.

On August 15, 2010 the advisory panel approved a package of recommendations aimed at safeguarding against wrongful convictions.  These include:

  • Recording custodial interrogations
  • Developing formal procedures and guidelines for eyewitness identification
  • Adopting a discovery policy that is mandatory, automatic, and reciprocal
  • Providing greater access to post-conviction DNA testing

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “the 11-member commission backed away from recommending the creation of a statewide innocence commission armed with subpoena powers but instead called for augmenting the work of state-funded innocence projects at four public universities: Texas Tech, the University of Houston, the University of Texas at Austin and Texas Southern University.”

Read editorials from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and San Antonio Express-News.

Read the full report from the advisory panel.