At a panel discussion in Texas on Saturday, federal and state lawmakers joined with attorneys and exonerees to discuss wrongful convictions and the criminal justice reforms that could prevent future injustice.
U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, the event’s organizer, said "there is perhaps no greater failure in our democracy and our justice system than the conviction and incarceration of those who have been wrongfully accused." But U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) also spoke on the panel and expressed optimism that progress was being made. "More and more people are beginning to hear about this problem," he said.
Patrick Waller, who recently became the 19th person cleared by DNA testing in Dallas County, attended the event, along with exonerees Charles Chatman and Billy James Smith.
"The most difficult thing is when I have to tell people I was in prison and what happened to me. And then the next difficult thing is when they ask me if I'm getting compensation, like if that was the most important thing," Smith said. "The most important thing is to be stable and to be able to function."
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. (Dallas Morning News, 07/20/08)