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Texas Innocence Clinics Under the Budget Knife

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 By Deb CoursonContact
January 19, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas - There was concern today that state budget woes could spell the end of the Texas Innocence Clinics. But the base budget released late last night preserves funding for the project's law school programs, where students work on cases free of charge in order to gain experience. More than 40 Texans have been exonerated as a result of the students' work over the years.

A panel featuring those who want to see the clinics' funding stay intact meets today (Wednesday). Scott Henson, policy expert for the Innocence Project of Texas, says the clinics have been at the forefront of ensuring that innocent Texans do not languish behind bars.

"Even people who are the most tough-on-crime imaginable don't want innocent people in prison, because that means the guilty person was not prosecuted."

There are four clinics at law schools, and each usually receives $100,000 a year.

Corey Session's brother, Timothy Cole, was the first Texan granted a posthumous pardon for innocence. Session says the clinics will close if state funding disappears, while there are still hundreds of cases that need to be reviewed.

"Innocent people do go to jail – and in the case of my brother, innocent people do die in prison. The State of Texas should be increasing the funding for these law school clinics."

Henson says the clinic funding is at risk because of the state's severe budget shortfall, estimated to be as high as $25 billion. Both Henson and Session will be part of today's panel discussion.

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