Legislative Gleanings - Early Returns - By Bill Harris

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Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

The legislature is rumored to still be in session. Our team of legislative specialists continues to monitor several bills and to support those that are important to the people we represent.

Although several committees could hear bills related to criminal law and procedure, most bills are referred to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Representative Abel He­rrero, D-Corpus Christi, has been appointed to chair Criminal Jurisprudence, just as he was in 2013. Chairman Herrero is a veteran legislator, and although he is a civil attorney, he has shown great temperance and fairness in his handling of this committee. Traditionally, this committee hears more bills than any other committee and is known for working late into the night.

On the Senate side, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick appointed Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston, to once again chair the Criminal Justice Committee. Senator Whitmire has over 40 years’ experience in the Texas Legislature as a House and Senate member. Currently, Senator Whitmire is the Dean of the Senate and has chaired this committee for over 20 years. This is an appointment for which we should be grateful.

Good news on the Michael Morton Act. Robert Kepple of TDCAA told Patricia Cummings and several others that there was no plan on the prosecution side to amend Article 39.14 during this session. While nothing is set in stone at this point, it does not appear that the prosecutors’ organization will urge any changes in the law this year.

Michael Morton himself was at the Capitol recently supporting changes in Chapter 64 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This is the chapter relating to DNA testing on prior convictions. Senator Ellis has introduced a bill at the urging of the New York Innocence Project to make it easier for a person convicted of a crime to seek DNA testing of evidence.

We continue to hope for improvements to the expunction process.