Texas prosecutors reflect on their role in wrongful convictions


A groundbreaking article in this week’s issue of Texas Lawyer tells of a dozen Dallas exonerations through the eyes of the trial prosecutors. Their reflections on these cases represent a range of perspectives, but common themes emerge. There is consensus that eyewitness identification is unreliable on its own and that cases resting on a single eyewitness are a recipe for wrongful conviction. Prosecutors agree that forensic science has improved the quality of justice in American courtrooms. Many prosecutors remembered every detail of these convictions years later, and worked for the defendant’s release soon after learning of new DNA evidence proving innocence.

Prosecutors call these wrongful convictions “tragic” and one says that hindsight is 20-20.

"I don't fault anyone for doing what they're doing," Prosecutor Douglas Fletcher says. "But you can look back on any profession. Doctors can look back at doctors 30 years ago and say . . . "Why were they treating cancer that way?'"

Another prosecutor, James Fry, says the unreliable nature of eyewitness identifications has been exposed by these exonerations.

… "In the criminal justice system, people are being convicted on one-witness cases. And what this says to me is we've got an inherent problem about how many of these cases we're getting wrong. And it's still going on today," says James Fry, a former Dallas prosecutor who helped send a man to prison for 27 years for a crime he didn't commit. "My question to everybody involved in this across the state and across the nation is what are we going to do about this? I don't know."

Read the full story here

. (Texas Lawyer, 06/06/08)


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