Wrongful convictions were the topic of discussion at a luncheon hosted by the UH Law Center on Wednesday.
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, joined professor Sandra Guerra Thompson to promote a book over the subject, “American Justice in the Age of Innocence,” that was written by Thompson and nine graduate students in 2009.
“The book was really envisioned as a means of providing a resource for legislators not only in Texas but around the country,” Thompson said.
In 2009, Thompson was assigned to the Advisory Panel on wrongful convictions, established by the Texas legislature. Thompson said that people often serve years, even decades, behind bars for a crime that they did not commit. She asked herself what could be done to make the system more reliable yet continue to protect the public in terms of safety.
Thompson set out to work with nine of her law students who agreed to work on different writings. She also provided case analysis.
Ellis said the students who participated in the writing and editing of the book and encouraged professors to make the law degree more valuable.
“I am very proud of the book and want to do anything I can to help (Thompson) promote it,” Ellis said.
He said most people in public relations and public office do not fully understand the mechanics of public policy, and it is useful to have a law degree.
Also in attendance to the luncheon was Cornelius Dupree Jr., who was exonerated of a 1980 conviction for aggravated assault.
He served more time than any other exonerated inmate — 30 years of a 75-year penalty.
“There is no way to repay him for 30 years in prison,” Ellis said.
Ellis is currently working in future reforms involving recording of interrogations and the issue of prosecutorial misconduct.
Some of the students that participated in the writing of the book where in attendance at the luncheon, including UH alumni Tanya Broholm.
Brohholm analyzed causes of false confessions, concentrating in police interrogation techniques and its affects on young or handicapped people.
“ I hope the book can do some good, I’m glad Sen. Ellis has taken an interest in promoting the book. Hopefully it can make a difference,” Broholm said.