This is an issue that needs to be addressed by city councils across Texas. Local governments and local taxpayers are the most vulnerable of all levels of government and taxpayers when it comes to being held financially responsible when innocent people are wrongfully convicted. In 2003, the City of Austin paid out more than $14 million to Richard Danziger and Christopher Ochoa because the APD had coerced a false confession from Ochoa, who then implicated Danziger.
There have been 20 exonerations of innocent people in Dallas County, including 11 since the current DA, Craig Watkins, took office.
Nine people have been sent to Texas death row and later exonerated. At least three innocent people may have already been executed in Texas.
Local governments need to send a message to the Texas Legislature to address the problems in the system that can lead to innocent people being convicted and even put at risk of wrongful execution. If a person is wrongfully executed in Texas, local taxpayers may have to foot the bill for a wrongful death lawsuit. The Travis County Commissioners Court and the El Paso County Commissioners Court have already passed moratorium resolutions.
Our proposed resolution is here. Of course, we expect it to be changed before it is passed. We also presented them with a resolution to abolish the death penalty in case they wanted to choose to pass that resolution.
The Austin Human Rights Commission has already passed both a moratorium resolution and an abolition resolution on separate ocassions and has sent letters to all city council members saying that the AHRC would like the city council to address the issue with its own resolution. There were two members of the AHRC at today's meeting, Lisa Scheps and Tom Davis. Delia Meyer, a TMN board member, who is also an Austin Human Rights Commissioner, has been pushing the issue on the AHRC. Also present were Scott Cobb, Hooman Hedayati and Alison Dieter.
The ACLU-TX Central Texas Chapter has also endorsed the resolution.
Proposed 2008 Austin City Council Moratorium Resolution