I was thinking about what I wanted to convey to you in my president’s message as I watched the Olympics wrapping up in Rio. Like most of you, I was enthralled by the games. As the athletes’ nervous anticipation turned into joy or heartbreak, one thing stood out most vividly to me. It wasn’t just the recognition of the athletes’ skill, training, and commitment or the sheer wonderment of so many countries setting aside their differences and coming together. It wasn’t solely about who won the gold or who fell short. Instead, I was captivated by the patriotism. Track athletes wrapped in the American flag. Fans dressed up in the red, white, and blue teeming with USA pride. The tears that flowed as our anthem echoed to the crowd. I was astonished at the demonstration of incredible athleticism, but more so, I was struck by the celebration of American. Thoughts of our work crept into my mind as I watched what was, at its heart, a celebration of the thing we Americans covet the most—Freedom.
I thought of the amazing work that TCDLA is doing to protect the freedom of those caught up in the criminal justice system. Not only do we individually protect freedom every day in our representation of our clients; TCDLA is also engaged in activities designed to improve justice in broad, systemic ways, including our Innocence Trainings and our role on the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Coincidentally, TCDLA’s annual Innocence Training in Austin started on the same day as the Olympics. It was another extremely successful CLE program that exemplifies both TCDLA’s contribution to the overall improvement in criminal justice, resulting in the exoneration of the wrongly convicted, and our role in training our members how to fight for and demand that each client is treated fairly. I was inspired by the case of Richard Miles, ex parte Miles, 359 SW.3 647 (2012 Tex.Crim.Pro), and the actual innocence opinion of Court of Criminal Appeal’s Judge Barbara Hervey, demonstrating the commitment of Texas to protect the freedom of the innocent.
Simultaneously, our work on the Texas Forensic Science Commission came to my mind. As you know, TCDLA has had an active part in establishing standards to stop the use of “junk science” in Texas courtrooms. After defense attorneys among us uncovered systematic flaws in the handling and analysis of forensic science, the commission was formed and has proven to be a powerful force in developing procedures for licensing forensic analysts, among other things, aimed at protecting the freedom of the innocent. It is time for TCDLA to recommend another member to the commission to replace Bobby Lerma, as his term is over. I thank Bobby for his service and am excited for another member to be our voice—the only defense voice in this important venue. We have submitted the names of ten amazingly qualified and committed members to the governor, who will select one to serve.
TCDLA was also asked to contribute to a report that will serve as a national model for creating similar forensic science commissions, and therefore improve the quality of justice, in other states. We were specifically asked to provide a brief statement about our role on the Texas Forensic Science Commission, hopefully to encourage other states to give their defense Bar a seat at the table.
I’m incredibly proud to serve as TCDLA’s president. This organization and its members do amazing and noble work to make the concepts of fairness and freedom a reality—a reality that will continue to represent who we are as Americans. So, the next time you hear the national anthem, or see a USA athlete waving a flag, I hope you will feel proud of the individual work that you do and proud to be part of an organization that strives to promote justice for everyone.