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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Texas Bill Demands DNA Tests in Capital Cases

AUSTIN (CN) - With support from the Texas attorney general, a state senator introduced a bill that would require pretrial DNA testing of biological evidence in all death penalty cases.

Attorney General Greg Abbott said Senate Bill 1292 would prevent "endless appeals that game the system" and delay justice for families of victims.

"The death penalty is right for Texas," Abbott said in a statement. "It works when it punishes murderers, but it doesn't work if it executes innocent people."

The bill by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, would have the Department of Public Safety test biological evidence collected by law enforcement investigators. The state would cover the cost of the testing.

Pretrial testing is not required in capital cases in Texas, so only a small subset of biological evidence is tested, Abbott said.

"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," Abbott said in the statement. "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."

Ellis called the bill a "modest" but important reform to the criminal justice system.

"It will help reduce the possibility that the ultimate mistake is made, with someone receiving the ultimate penalty," Ellis said.

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