Tuesday, June 10, 2008
In fewer than two years in office, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins has become a star for who he is not — namely legendary DA Henry Wade. Watkins has embraced the help of the Innocence Project and has worked to free the wrongfully convicted, blaming the "conviction at all costs" mentality of his predecessors' administrations as a reason for the injustice.
Watkins has received national media attention: CBS' "60 Minutes" chronicled his efforts to exonerate numerous inmates based on new DNA testing and newspapers have written flattering profiles about Watkins' rise to power. He has been lauded for setting up a Conviction Integrity Unit in the office. And Watkins made news last month when he suggested that Texas law be changed so that prosecutors who withhold exculpatory evidence from the defense in criminal cases could be charged criminally.
But until now, the current and former prosecutors responsible for sending 17 men to prison for years — a total of 282 years to be exact — have rarely been heard from. So Texas Lawyer filed an open-records request with the Dallas County DA's office to receive the names of all 29 prosecutors who tried and helped convict the 17 men. [See "The Exonerated, the Prosecutors and the Judges," below.] [Mark Godsey]