At 12:15 there will be an “Award Presentation Honoring Sens. Whitmire and Huffman; Reps. Smithee and Herrero and the Honorable J. Keller.”
I googled those names, and the first thing that I found that they all have in common is membership in the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Committee.
Let’s talk about exoneration.
Exoneration for actual innocence is politically palatable across the spectrum. Should someone who can prove that he is factually innocent be punished? Almost everybody would say “no.” ((How much of an opportunity actually innocent people should have to prove their actual innocence is a different question.))
Due process for people who may not be actually innocent is not nearly as popular a cause. In the abstract people support it, but when it comes down to cases they really don’t care if people who obviously did bad things got a fair shake, or had effective counsel, or were legally searched. Actually, it’s not so much that they don’t care as that the scared white republicans who elect judges like Sharon Keller and senators like Joan Huffman prefer less due process for criminals.
So judges like Keller, and senators like Huffman, can give the middle finger to due process (Huffman, writes statutes that make it easier to convict defendants than the common law would ever have allowed; Keller, who is unfortunately a great deal smarter than Huffman, finds waiver, no error, or harmless error on the shabbiest of pretenses) and then vaunt their exoneration-related work, such as participation on the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Committee or writing the odd pro-exoneration appellate opinion.
For these politicians exoneration is reputation-laundering work. They are dreadful on the unpopular core concern of the criminal-justice system—the process—but by putting a little energy into the exoneration cases they can, with a little help from the defense bar, pretend to be heroes of freedom.