Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bill would allow convictions based upon prior bad acts

Texas State Senator Joan Huffman (R-Southside Place) is at it again. This time she's introduced a bill (that passed out of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee) that would allow the state to introduce evidence of prior criminal acts during the so-called "guilt/innocence" phase of trial to show that the defendant was a bad dude.

According to SB 152, anytime a defendant is charged with a sexual offense involving a minor, the state could introduce evidence of similar prior offenses committed by the defendant to show "the character of the defendant."

Current law allows the state to introduce evidence of prior sexual offenses involving the defendant and the complaining witness to show the parties' state of mind and any previous or subsequent relationship between the two.

Ms. Huffman's proposed bill would allow the state to obtain a conviction based not upon the evidence presented of the alleged offense, but based upon evidence of prior convictions or bad acts. In other words, a person could be found guilty because they did something bad before.

According to Ms. Huffman, the proposed legislation would bring Texas rules more in line with the Federal rules. Now that seems like a pretty strange argument for a conservative Texas Republican to be making. The Tea-baggers and their fellow travelers rail against the federal government and argue in favor of states' rights. Apparently that only applies when los federales haven't bowed to the social conservative agenda. If the State of Texas broadens rights defined under the US Constitution then I suppose we need less state sovereignty.

The proposed legislation is bad. A person on trial should only be judged on the evidence of the offense alleged - not on the basis of what he or she may have done in the past.

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