Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Exonerated prisoners raise many questions

At last count I believe that Dallas County has reversed erroneous judgments resulting in the liberation of 18 previously wrongly convicted men.

No, make that 19. Just last week Patrick Waller was released after spending 15 years in a Texas prison for a crime he did not commit.

Waller is the 19th man in Dallas County since 2001 shown by DNA evidence to be innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. That's more than any county in the nation, according to The Innocence Project in New York, a legal center specializing in wrongful-conviction cases.

Four former inmates who collectively served nearly 100 years in prison before being exonerated lined the back wall of the crowded courtroom during Waller's final hearing. The men freed by DNA testing in Dallas County have made a habit of showing up in court for exoneration hearings, and on Thursday they presented Waller with a prepaid cell phone as a gift.

Thank God for advances in DNA technology!

For an interesting research exercise do a Google search on "exonerated prisoners in Dallas, Texas. " The stories you can read there are amazing and, at times, very sad.

The reports make you wonder how many more decisions need to be re-opened and challenged.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins should be commended for his leadership in overseeing and pushing forward the entire process. I know he won't be letting up anytime soon. Another reason to give thanks.

How would you feel if you spent 15 years of your life behind bars for a crime you didn't commit?



Adam Gonnerman said...

I can't imagine. Sometimes I grumble to myself about the years that have gone by that seem to me to have been "unproductive." Compared to these men, I have NOTHING to gripe about. I was free and with my family.

Anonymous said...

The reason Dallas is in the "lead" on DNA exonerations is not that it necessarily had more wrongful convictions, but that it saved almost all testable evidence for so long that it can now be tested. Most counties would have long ago discarded such evidence, so their prisoners simply do not have access to the evidence that could set them free. Now that's really scary!

Larry James said...

We also have a DA who is willing to fight for truth, even if it means losing credit for "convictions"! I'm grateful for Mr. Watkins and his leadership.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%. The evidence wouldn't do any good if it wasn't tested, and many prosecutors strongly resist testing what evidence they do have. Watkins deserves lots of credit for resisting the temptation to admit no wrong.

Anon 9:58