The Michael Morton Act is a step closer to becoming law.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee today passed SB 1611, a landmark reform revamping Texas’ discovery statute for the first time since 1965. State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and State Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) worked together on the legislation. They say it ensures that all relevant evidence is revealed. 

 “Discovery reform is simply vital to the reliability and quality of our justice system,” Ellis said in a statement released by his office Tuesday.  “We must weigh all relevant evidence and ensure we bring all the relevant facts to light to safeguard the innocent, convict only the guilty, and provide justice the people of Texas can have faith in. We look forward to working with our House sponsor, Representative Senfronia Thompson, to get this important legislation to the Governor’s desk.”

 “I have long been an advocate for an efficient, effective and uniform court system across Texas.  This legislation is a giant step forward in reaching that goal,” Duncan said. “I am proud that stakeholders from across the state were able to come together and set aside their differences to improve our criminal justice system.”

The bill’s namesake, Michael Morton, was released from prison after more than two decades when DNA evidence proved he did not murder his wife Christine. He had the following statement read into record:

“I would like to thank all of the interested parties that have worked on this legislation.  I would especially like to thank Senators Ellis and Duncan and their staff for the many hours spent drafting and negotiating the language that has gotten us to this point.

“Sitting where I sit today, I can say I have seen the best and the worst of the Texas Criminal Justice System.  Having had such a unique vantage point, I hope that my experience allows me to contribute in such in such a way as to protect those things that make the system work and to change those things that weaken it.

 “I have previously said I do not want a revolution and I am not out for revenge.  My goal has been and continues to be to effectuate changes that promote transparency and accountability.  I believe this bill is a positive step towards that goal.  

 “Like any negotiation, it is not a perfect bill.  Nobody got everything they wanted, including me.  However, I support SB 1611 and I ask for your favorable consideration.”