An editorial that appeared in The New York Times on Monday called for evidence preservation and eyewitness identification reform nationwide, noting that Cornelius Dupree, Jr. was wrongfully convicted in part due to eyewitness misidentification.
Earlier this month, a Dallas County judge vacated Dupree’s rape and robbery conviction and declared him an innocent man after he served 30 years for crimes DNA tests proved that he didn’t commit. .
If Dallas County, Texas didn’t have an evidence preservation law, Dupree’s conviction might not have been overturned. Since evidence from the 1979 crime for which he was wrongfully convicted was preserved in long-term storage, post-conviction DNA testing was able to prove Dupree’s innocence. But there are many cities across the country that are without preservation laws or best practices in place for identification procedures.
“It’s been proven that the system needs to be fixed,” Mr. Watkins declared. The former defense attorney is urging the Texas Legislature to combat a “convict at all costs” mentality by enacting a precise protocol to curb the kind of zealous identification shortcuts taken against Mr. Dupree. State lawmakers are reported to be open to the idea. The Legislature faced up to the increase in DNA exonerations two years ago when it enacted the nation’s most generous compensation law, providing $80,000 for each year of freedom unjustly lost.
Texas, with its crowded death row, has hardly been the model of criminal justice. But the lessons of the Dupree case cry out for mandating long-term storage of DNA evidence nationwide, and reform of patently unjust identification methods. “It’s a joy to be free again,” Mr. Dupree said as a dozen other exonorees observed a new Texas tradition of gathering to greet the latest person proved innocent.