(Patrick Michels)

Hot List: Day 126 of the Legislature


The Lead:

Wrongful convictions have become all too common in Texas, and every legislative session features another horrific tale of an innocent person spending decades in prison and reform bills aimed at preventing similar injustices in the future—from Tim Cole to Anthony Graves and now Michael Morton.

The House is scheduled to debate Senate Bill 1611—the Michael Morton act—on the floor today. The bill would strengthen requirements that prosecutors turn over all key evidence to defense lawyers. Morton spent 25 years behind bars after being falsely convicted of his wife’s 1986 murder. (You can read about Morton’s case in this seminal Texas Monthly story, which earlier this month won a National Magazine Award for feature writing.) There is strong evidence that prosecutors in the case withheld evidence from the defense that could have proved Morton’s innocence.

As Brandi Grissom notes in the Texas Tribune, the bill will be debated on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brady v. Maryland, which established that defense lawyers were entitled to exculpatory evidence.

The House will also hear Senate Bill 825, which would give exonorees more time to file a grievance to hold prosecutors accountable for misconduct. Morton helped push both bills forward by personally testifying in support of them earlier in the session. 

Weekend Headlines:

1. The push to find a sustainable funding stream for TxDOT appears dead this session, the Statesman reports (subscription now required).

2. With just two weeks left in the session, the pressure is showing, as advocacy groups push to get their bills passed. The Tribune profiles Raise Your Hand Texas and the influence it has had on education reform.

3. Ted Cruz received high praise for his intellect from his alma mater over the weekend. But is he ready to run in 2016?

Line of the Day:

“I have a text message right here that says they were for it as it came out of committee.” —Rep. Dan Huberty during House debate on virtual school bill, as quoted in the Trib’s profile of Raise Your Hand Texas.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The House will hear Senate Bill 15 by Sen. Kel Seliger that would restrict the powers of the boards of regents at Texas’ public universities. The dispute between the the UT Regents and the Lege will once again be a focus of attention.

2. A Senate bill that would ban the use of tanning facilities by minors is also up on the House floor.