Texas’ new 11-member Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission's held its first meeting yesterday, reports the Texas Tribune. Timothy Cole, the commission's namesake, was wrongfully convicted in a rape case that led to a 25-year prison sentence. He died in prison but was posthumously exonerated, thanks to DNA evidence. Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill creating the commission, which is charged for one year with studying exonerations since Jan. 1, 2010, to identify what went wrong and recommend how to prevent future wrongful convictions. Legislators who pushed for the commission’s creation, state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon and state Sen. Rodney Ellis told commissioners they are moving a step closer to ensuring justice in Texas.
“This is a breakthrough moment in the history of Texas criminal justice,” McClendon said, adding that victims of crime deserve closure based on truth, and that taxpayer money should not be wasted on getting it wrong in the criminal justice system. “I urge you to make the utmost of the time and the talent available to carry out this mission. And we have talent that's just magnificent.” Commissioners discussed their discretion to probe weaknesses in the criminal justice system, suggesting that videotaped confessions and line-up irregularities are among among topics for review. Anthony Graves, who was exonerated of a 1992 murder because of false testimony, said the commission is just the first step. The legislature and governor have to act, too, he said. “The Legislature has to act on those recommendations,” he said. “Otherwise, it's goodwill going to waste.”