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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

State sets up watchdog unit for criminal justice system

In a "call to action" to address problems in the justice system, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Barbara Hervey on Wednesday announced a new Texas Criminal Justice Integrity Unit.

The unit has officials from across the state, including Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and lists a broad slate of criminal justice issues that could use improvement. The issues include improving indigent defense, improving eyewitness identification and better compensating the wrongly convicted.

The court can address some areas, while the Legislature must address others. Hervey said she plans to work through the summer so the group can have solid proposals when the Legislature meets in January.

Different members have different priorities. Ellis has worked on compensation issues in the past, while Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins has gained prominence for his efforts to bring attention to convicts who were exonerated by DNA evidence.

An easy start, Hervey said, will focus on writ training. Writs, for the most part, are a last-chance process for someone who has been convicted and has exhausted the normal appeals process. [Mark Godsey]

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