Ken Paxton

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Attorney General Abbott, Sen. Ellis Announce Legislation Requiring Pre-Trial DNA Testing in Capital Cases

AUSTIN Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today joined Senator Rodney Ellis to express support for legislation that would require DNA testing for all biological evidence collected by law enforcement in all death penalty cases. Attorney General Abbott made the following statement about SB 1292:

The death penalty is right for Texas. It works when it punishes murderers, but it doesn't work if it executes innocent people. To be certain that only guilty murderers are executed, all evidence that can be tested for DNA should be tested for DNA -- before the case goes to trial. This will prevent endless appeals that game the system and delay justice for the families of victims.

SB 1292 is a modest but vitally important reform, and is a significant step toward a more fair, reliable and just criminal justice system in Texas, said Senator Ellis. It will help reduce the possibility that the ultimate mistake is made with someone receiving the ultimate penalty.

Under current state law, DNA testing is not required prior to trial, and therefore may only be conducted on a small subset of the biological evidence collected by authorities. There are a variety of reasons why investigators may not always test all the evidence they collect including cost, timing, or the fact that the full inculpatory or exculpatory potential of the evidence may not have been immediately apparent. Where the exculpatory value of crime scene evidence is only later discovered on appeals, both the defendant and the victim’s families have suffered a preventable injustice that could have been avoided. Subjecting biological evidence to DNA testing in advance will also help prevent wrongful convictions. To avoid the imposition of an unfunded mandate on local prosecutors and law enforcement agencies, SB 1292 requires that a Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab perform the mandatory DNA test at the State’s expense, and provide the results of those tests to both the defendant and state prosecutors.