Since 2010, Texas has exonerated over 200 people for crimes they did not commit, based on evidence of innocence. Wrongful convictions, unfortunately, are a fact of life in Texas.
Texas, according to the Innocence Project, is the state with the highest number of prisoners found to be innocent following DNA testing. The Innocence Project is an organization that works to exonerate people who are wrongfully convicted of crimes.
In 2015, 149 people were cleared of crimes they did not commit. This number is the highest of any year in modern history, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. In the previous year, 139 were exonerated. These numbers have been steadily rising since 2005, when only 61 people were cleared of crimes they did not commit.
On average, those cleared in 2015 had served 14.5 years in prison. Some of them were on death row.
New Laws Could Help Prevent Wrongful Convictions
In May, the legislature passed a law to:
- Regulate the use of prison informants, to provide more accountability and transparency
- Require police to record interrogations in some felony cases
- Toughen rules for the use of police lineups to secure eyewitness identification, by making it so that suspects cannot noticeably stick out, witnesses must be informed that the perpetrator may be absent from the lineup and police must ask how certain the witness is in his or her selection
The law, House Bill 34, also asks for new studies on drug test kits and crime scene investigation.
2016 data shows that Texas has spent $93.6 million in the past 25 years paying 101 men and women who were wrongfully imprisoned.
If you are accused of a crime – even one you did not commit – your best chance of having your case dismissed or the penalties reduced is to discuss it with a qualified criminal defense attorney in your area.