Texas Senate passes Exculpatory Evidence Bill

Legislation that has unanimously passed the Senate would require law enforcement agencies to turn over all evidence and information that might show someone is not guilty of a crime they are accused of committing.

The Exculpatory Evidence Bill filed by state Senator Royce West could keep innocent people from being wrongly convicted.

Current laws require prosecutors to turn over everything they have to the defense, but not law enforcement who don't have to give over everything discovered in an investigation. Proponents call it a big step in criminal justice reform and transparency.

Richard Miles spent 15 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. He’s excited about legislation that will require law enforcement to provide a written statement. All documents, items, and information required to be disclosed have been transmitted to the state. Officers who don't could face disciplinary action.

Miles was convicted and sent away at 19, but what was hidden from prosecutors and Miles could have turned the case.

There was investigative information that a woman told detectives “an ex-boyfriend told her he shot two black males at a Texaco near Bachman Lake and that the police had arrested someone, but that they had the wrong person."

Mike Ware is executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas. That group worked to have the wrong done to Miles made right. Ware says the bill will make a difference.

“The system is gonna be more fair. Less innocent people are gonna be convicted of crimes they had nothing to do with,” he said.

Russell Wilson is in private practice now, but he headed up the Conviction Integrity Unit in the Craig Watkins administration.

“What this has to impress on them is give us the whole truth. Not just information that supports the case, but also the information that weighs against the case,” Wilson said. “And let a judge or a jury decide those issues. But when you prevent the defense from having that material, you directly impact somebody's ability to have a fair trial.”

Miles doesn't see the years he spent in prison as lost.

“In a strange way, it was worth it. I think the more things that come out that can save other people if that fifteen years was what I had to go through if it was the sacrifice, I know the story of a man that did for all and so that death was worth it,” Miles said.

District Attorney John Creuzot said he met with chiefs of police in the county who are on board with him and it will create the legal obligation for the police to turn everything over to DA's who can then give it to the defendants.