In Texas, 52 people convicted of crimes have been cleared through DNA testing, more exonerations than any other state, according to the New York-based Innocence Project.
The testing led to the real criminal being identified in 21 of those cases, including that of Michael Morton, who spent 25 years in prison for his wife’s murder before DNA proved him innocent and linked another man to her death.
And yet current state law, based on a ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, puts an undue burden on defendants who request DNA testing. They have to prove in advance that an item contains DNA before a judge will grant testing of the evidence.
That doesn’t make sense, and the Legislature has moved to correct that by passing a bill this week that calls for testing of items if there is a “reasonable likelihood” they contain DNA evidence.
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Senate Bill 487, authored by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, was sent to the governor Wednesday. Gov. Greg Abbott should waste no time before signing it.