LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – Senators at the state capitol want to make sure police across the state use the same policies to identify suspects in a lineup and that the right people are put behind bars.
The Texas Senate passed a bill Wednesday, 30-0, that is designed to improve the way law enforcement agencies conduct live and photo spread lineups to prevent wrongful convictions.
The bill grew out of the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions. Cole died in prison while trying to clear his name for a crime he did not commit.
"As my mom says, for her great loss there will be great gains in the justice system and that is what we are looking for," Cory Session explains.
He knows nothing will bring back his brother Tim but says he was very proud to see the Senate take action on the eyewitness lineup bill with no opposition.
Session says never before has there been a state policy on eyewitness lineups conducted by authorities either in person or on paper. The National Innocence Project says Texas leads the nation in the number of DNA exonerations, and many of them are because people picked the wrong suspect from a lineup.
SB 121 requires law enforcement agencies to adopt a written policy on how suspects are selected for lineups. The Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas located at Sam Houston State University would be commissioned to develop a policy for agencies.
Lubbock State Senator Robert Duncan, who voted for the bill, believes everyone wins.
"In my view I think law enforcement is enhanced whenever you have a model to go by, especially in sensitive area of evidence," Sen. Duncan said over the phone from Austin shortly after the vote. "This uses science, best practices, and puts independents in the administration in line up procedures to ensure the integrity of it."
Sen. Duncan says the bill will help law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, but more importantly it will help prevent wrongful convictions.
While it is not a done deal, Session says this bill is a step in the right direction. Session and his mother met with Governor Rick Perry a few weeks ago to talk about the bill's this legislative session aimed at improving the criminal justice system.
"He said these are good pieces of legislation. If I get them on my desk, I'll sign them and we are going to make sure he does," said Session.
Lubbock police do have a written policy about lineups. The Lubbock County Sheriff's Office does not have an explicit policy on photo lineups, but deputies do follow the code of criminal procedure. Both departments say whatever lawmakers pass in Austin they will put into practice.
Cole's family hopes Governor Perry will sign the bill into law sometime in the spring. They are also keeping a close eye on several other pieces of legislation regarding wrongful convictions and the Tim Cole Act which would give health insurance to people wrongfully convicted once they get out of jail or prison.
The bill will go to the House for consideration.
©2011 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved. Associated Press Contributed to this Report.