AUSTIN, TX — Today, the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA) presented Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) with the Legislator of the Year Award for his service on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and for his passage of legislation supported by TCDLA.
The Legislator of the Year Award recognizes a member of the Legislature who has championed the advancement of a fair criminal justice system and has made significant contributions to legislation focused on protecting the constitutional rights of defendants. Nominations are made by the TCDLA Legislative Committee to the TCDLA Executive Committee, which makes the final determination of the award recipient.
Of significance during the 88th Legislative Session were two billes passed by Senator Hinojosa relating to criminal justice reform: Senate Bill 338 and Senate Bill 991. The first, SB 338, bars the admissibility of witness testimony derived from forensic hypnosis, a practice that has long been considered outdated and unreliable. The second, SB 991, creates a centralized Crime Laboratory Portal at the Department of Public Safety which will allow for key forensic laboratory records to be made accessible seamlessly to prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Throughout his legislative service, Senator Hinojosa has been instrumental in the state’s efforts to reform our criminal justice system. During his time serving in the State House and in the wake of the Tulia drug bust scandal, he worked to improve public safety and rule of law by prohibiting Texans from being convicted of drug charges based solely on the testimony of undercover officers. This change in policy brought greater oversight and transparency of drug task force operations. Also of great importance was the Senator’s work on HB 1068 in 2005, which created the Forensic Science Commission (FSC) and charged it with investigating allegations of negligence or misconduct that would substantially affect the integrity of the results of a forensic analysis conducted by crime laboratories. The FSC now serves as a model agency across the nation for ensuring that forensic laboratories meet the highest standards of quality and integrity.
“Senator Hinojosa has given long and distinguished service to his country and to the State of Texas, especially in the area of human rights and equal treatment for all Texans,” said TCDLA President Heather Hagerty Barbieri. “Senator Hinojosa has compassion and understanding for all Texas citizens and his focus on equal justice for all citizens makes him the 2023 TCDLA Legislator of the Year.”
Senator Hinojosa expressed his appreciation for the award and remarked on the importance of a fair and just criminal justice system:
“I am honored that the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association has recognized me with this distinguished award. As an attorney, I understand the critical role one plays in the legal system by ensuring that those accused of a crime receive due process of law and enjoy every possible benefit from our profession that justice allows.
Once signed, I look forward to seeing the improvements that SB 338 and SB 991 will add to our criminal justice system. As a state, we have made great progress in ensuring due process for all Texans, but there is still work to be done. I remain committed to working towards a system that is effective, efficient, and equal.”