A new day for Dallas justice


The steady pace of DNA exonerations in Dallas recently has cast a dark shadow over the county’s justice system, and officials say they are digging out from the “win at all costs” mentality set during the 36-year tenure of former prosecutor Henry Wade. Now, seven years after Wade’s death, DNA is beginning to show that many of the defendants convicted by Wade were innocent. Nineteen people have been freed by DNA testing in Dallas since 2001, more than any other county – and all but three states, and 250 more cases are currently under review.

Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins, who in 2006 became the first elected African-American chief county prosecutor in Texas history, said the atmosphere needed to change in Dallas to ensure fair justice.

"There was a cowboy kind of mentality and the reality is that kind of approach is archaic, racist, elitist and arrogant," said Watkins, who is 40 and never worked for Wade or met him.

 …"I think the number of examples of cases show it's troubling," said Nina Morrison, an attorney with the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal group affiliated with the Texas effort. "Whether it's worse than other jurisdictions, it's hard to say. It would be a mistake to conclude the problems in these cases are limited to Dallas or are unique to Dallas.


Read the full story here

. (Associated Press, 07/29/08)

Watch video of a speech by Watkins about his “smart on crime” approach


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