Dallas DA Introduces ‘Racial Justice Act’
Photo: Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins (back row, third from right) with Texas exonerees.
In an effort to continue the fight against wrongful convictions and to free the innocent in Texas, Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins urges state legislators to consider the Racial Justice Act so defendants can appeal their convictions and sentences on the basis of race, reported the Associated Press.
“The issue that we’re bringing to light is to make sure that everything is fair, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, and you’re treated just like anyone else,” Watkins said. “And if you deserve a death sentence, then you will get it. If you didn’t, then you shouldn’t be on death row.”
Watkins plans to file a bill in the next few months that would allow defendants to introduce evidence, either in their specific case or through general statistics, to argue that their prosecutions or sentences were influenced by race.
Despite several reforms passed in recent years that have expanded DNA testing and compensated the wrongfully convicted, Watkins said Texas still comes up short. In Dallas County, 28 of the 33 people who have been exonerated of crimes since 2001 are black, according to Debbie Denmon, spokeswoman for the DA’s office.
According to a 2008 study of racial disparity in sentencing, black defendants in Harris County, which includes Houston, were more likely to get a death sentence than white defendants. That study revealed that blacks comprise 40% of Texas’ nearly 300 death row inmates while just 11% of the state’s population is black.
“I would imagine that there are individuals, not just in prison, but particularly on death row, that were convicted because of the color of their skin,” Watkins said.
“We’re just going to keep pushing the envelope forward to make justice work for the state of Texas, and Texas has an opportunity to lead the country when it comes to what it means to be a prosecutor and what justice is,” Watkins said.
According to the Associated Press, Kentucky and North Carolina have passed similar legislation in 1998 and 2009, respectively. Kentucky’s law allows a defendant facing the death penalty to seek a hearing under the act before trial, and North Carolina’s law allows defendants to use some statistics and direct evidence that applies to the individual case.
Leave a Reply
Thank you for visiting us. You can learn more about how we consider cases here. Please avoid sharing any personal information in the comments below and join us in making this a hate-speech free and safe space for everyone.
April 13, 2018 at 5:45 pm
I have a family member that recieved 6 life sentences for aggravated rape. He has been in prison for over 30 years. He had one appeal since he was there and it was denied. He had a public defender. Not only do I believe that he is innocent, I dont believe he got a fair trial. From my understanding there was no DNA that linked him to these crimes.
I am asking for someone to PLEASE look into this case. I dont know the law, however, I do know that there are people that have murdered people that have not received sentences like this. It was never told to us whether ir not that these crimes continued after he was convicted. Can someone PLEASE contact me regarding this.
I would be GRATEFUL. Thank You so much and may God Bless You.
Mary Lane September 14, 2021 at 10:58 pm
I have a grandson that received life without parole and aggravated kidnapping for driving his associate to collect money from someone and the guy ended up killing the person and he got less time than my grandson. Any help would be very much appreciated. Thank You.