NY Times: New Dallas DA means end to old ways


The first five months in office for new Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins has brought major change to the county’s justice system, and an article in yesterday’s New York Times considers the differences between Watkins and prosecutors of decades past. But political change often moves slowly:

“I encounter resistance every day,” Mr. Watkins said. “It’s part of my job. It doesn’t make any difference. Let them be on the wrong side of history.” But, he said, his critics “are just waiting for me to make a mistake.”

Since 2001, DNA testing has overturned 13 Dallas County wrongful convictions. Only the states of Illinois, New York and Texas have more exonerations than Dallas County itself. Watkins

announced in February

that his office would cooperate with the Innocence Project of Texas to review more than 400 cases in which an inmate applied for DNA testing to prove innocence and was denied the tests. In May, his office named a new

special prosecutor

to focus on this review process as well as other DNA-related cases.

“We’re getting ready to make history, not only in Dallas County and Texas but the rest of the country,” said Jeff Blackburn of the West Texas Innocence Project at Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock. “We have what no other county or state has — a D.A. determined that innocent people don’t get convicted.”

“You don’t have to be bloodthirsty to be elected,” Mr. Blackburn said. “People are not as crazy as prosecutors and judges think.”

Read the full story here

. (New York Times, 6/3/07)

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