Texas state senators are advancing a plan to create an Innocence Commission to review criminal justice problems and an overhaul of the state parole board’s clemency process. Sen. Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat, has included the the changes in a 114-page government reorganization package that contains a mix of proposals favored by the governor, the Dallas Morning News says.
Under the bill, the governor could create a nine-member Innocence Commission to examine cases in which convictions were erroneously obtained. The commission would have broad authority, including subpoena powers, to determine defects in the prosecution and to suggest ways to prevent wrongful convictions.
The clemency proposal was added to a bill that reconfigures the Board of Pardons and Parole, chopping the governing board from 18 members to seven, who would hire “parole commissioners” to help make parole decisions. Currently, parole board members do not meet as a group to discuss cases. They review packets of materials individually and fax their votes to a central office. Experts and federal judges have criticized the procedure as barely meeting the standards of due process.
Under the Senate bill, the new seven-member governing board would meet as a group to discuss clemency cases and formally announce its decision afterward.