Monday, September 28, 2009

Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions

Timothy Cole was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 1985 rape of 20-year-old Michele Mallin. He maintained his innocence, but it was not confirmed by DNA until years after his 1999 death, when another inmate confessed to the rape.

Based on this young man’s story the Texas Legislature passed HB 498 establishing the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions. This legislation went into effect September 1, 2009. The advisory panel was established to assist the Task Force on Indigent Defense to study and prepare a report regarding the causes of wrongful convictions, procedures and programs that may be implemented to prevent future wrongful convictions, the effects of state law on wrongful convictions, and whether the creation of an innocence commission to investigate wrongful convictions is necessary. Members of the advisory panel can be viewed under the members section of this page.

The director of the Task Force on Indigent Defense, Jim Bethke, is designated as the presiding officer of the advisory panel. The legislation also provides that advisory panel shall meet at the call of the presiding officer but not less than three times in person and as needed by telephone conference call.

An initial planning meeting is expected be held in the Fall of 2009, to discuss the scope of the study and develop a work plan to accomplish the directives of the legislation. A second meeting is expected to be held to review the work completed to date sometime in April/March 2010 with a final meeting sometime in October/November 2010. The final recommendations will be presented to the full Task Force on Indigent Defense at its November/December 2010 meeting. A final report will be sent to the Governor, Lt. Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the standing committees of each house of the legislature with a representative serving on the Advisory Panel.

Jim and I will keep you informed as this effort develops.

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