I have three things to say about this story, which gives an overview of the races for the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Problems in the criminal justice system, highlighted by a series of exonerations, are the top issue in this year’s races for the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Both incumbent judges and their challengers are talking about the need to improve the reliability of eyewitness identification and preserve DNA evidence.
Three Republican judges are seeking re-election. Two of them face a Democrat and a Libertarian, and one faces a Libertarian only.
While the candidates in these low-funded, down-ballot races still struggle for voters’ attention, the debate this year concerns issues that go to the heart of whether the state’s criminal justice system is broken.
“Whether”? There is no debate about whether the criminal justice system is broken in Texas. The debate is over how badly it’s broken, and how radically it needs to be changed in order to be repaired.
Susan Strawn, a Houston lawyer and former federal prosecutor, said she wants to help restore credibility to the court. She is challenging Tom Price, a member of the high court since 1997.
“(The court) has been reversed too many times by the U.S. Supreme Court. It doesn’t have modern procedures as shown by what happened in the Richard case,” said Strawn, a Democrat.
Strawn said that Price hasn’t taken a leadership role in court initiatives on criminal justice integrity or indigent defense.
Strawn, who is this year’s Bill Moody in terms of newspaper endorsements, may well be the Democratic vote leader this year. If she does win, or even if she comes close, say with 47% or better, I think the Democrats will field a full slate of CCA candidates in 2010, hopefully as part of a strong top-to-bottom statewide effort. Given how badly Texas’ Worst Court needs the shakeup, that’s a very good thing to hope for.
Judge Paul Womack is seeking his third, six-year term. He said he supports the court’s efforts to prevent wrongful convictions, including reviewing how confessions are taken from suspects.
“It seems to me that the problem of wrongful convictions is a judicial branch problem and we should take the lead in making improvements,” he said.
Womack’s opponent, Democrat J.R. Molina is making his fourth — and last, he said — run for the high court.
He blamed partisan politics for his lack of success in previous races.
Naturally, Molina’s lack of anything resembling a campaign, not to mention his notorious indifference to editorial board reviews, has nothing to do with this. If this is indeed his swan song, may I just say “Hallelujah”. We don’t need any more Gene Kellys, thanks very much.