RECENT LEGISLATION: Texas Legislature Examining Problems of Innocence and Racial Bias

Two bills under consideration in Texas aim to address issues in the state’s death penalty. House Bill 2458 would allow defendants to appeal their death sentences if they can prove that race was a significant factor in the decision to seek or impose the death penalty. Statistical evidence of bias can be used to support such a claim. Similar bills, referred to as the Racial Justice Act, have been considered in other states. Testimony in favor of the bill mentioned the case of Duane Buck, an African American who was sentenced to death after a psychologist testifed that Buck would likely be a future danger to society because of his race. On April 17, the Texas Senate unanimously passed SB 1292, a bill that requires the state to collect and test all DNA evidence prior to a trial in which the defendant could receive the death penalty. The bill now heads to the House.

(M. Chammah, “Panel Debates Death Penalty Cases, Race Considerations,” Texas Tribune, April 17, 2013; “Senate OKs mandatory DNA testing bill,” Houston Chronicle, April 17, 2013). See Innocence, Recent Legislation, and Race.