Leading Off (9/16/08)

1. Dallas County DA Craig Watkins told the DMN he would like to look at nearly 40 death-row convictions to see if any need to be overturned, in light of the 19 DNA exonerations in Dallas County. As former Asst. DA Toby Shook notes, this would be disruptive to victim’s families, but given the previous regime’s track record, that’s his fault, not Watkins’.

2. How are we going to spend the extra $2.7 million we’ve found in the city budget? We’re gonna keep the zoo open longer!

3. I know Tim mentioned this, but, uh … HOW ‘BOUT THEM COWBOYS?!

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Comments

14 responses to “Leading Off (9/16/08)”

  1. I had a couple of other questions for Toby Shook on that earlier today.

  2. Long Memory says:

    Remember the old joke about how you could find a lot of innocent people in prison? Why am I not laughing anymore?

  3. Esquire says:

    Lumping all the pre-Watkins DAs together is unfair. Most of these go back the exonerations go back to Henry Wade days. Bill Hill was the DA who started this wave of exonerations.

  4. amanda says:

    @ Esquire, you’re joking right? When exactly did Hill get that ball rolling?

  5. ChuckE says:

    #2- They “found” $2.7MM by increasing the amount of projected sales tax revenue?? Really? I can project my paycheck will increase but I could be wrong.

  6. Daniel says:

    Henry Wade was, and remains, a disgrace to the State of Texas — not to mention the human race.

    Also, check out some of the semiliterate commenters on the DMN site. Sorry — I love Willie and I love brisket, but Texas has got to have some of the stupidest and meanest people on this planet. DMN commenters give new meaning to the word “vile.”

  7. Josh Pearson says:

    @ Daniel – “I love Willie”. MARK.

  8. Esquire says:

    Amanda — Hill did not draw a lot of attention to it like Watkins but a lot of men convicted of hard crimes were exonerated on his watch. I forget the exact number, but I think it is nine or 10.

  9. Bethany says:

    Yes, Esquire is correct. The exonerations began when a 2001 Texas law allowed the inmates to have post-conviction DNA testing. More than 400 applied in Dallas County, and David Pope was the first one exonerated – he was convicted in 1986. The bulk of the exonerations have come from Wade’s tenure, but one of Hill’s convictions also produced an exoneration.

    But that doesn’t mean Hill lead the charge, necessarily. It just means that the exonerations happened while he was DA, because the law changed.

    In fact, according to the Innocence Project, much of the DNA testing was done during Hill’s tenure, but was often disputed. In the case of Wiley Fountain, it took a judge ordering a DNA test for it to happen. He was exonerated.

  10. Esquire says:

    Thank you Bethany, you explained it a lot better than me.

  11. bleacherseats says:

    Take a bow, Bethany.

  12. Jan says:

    Bethany rocks! I can’t wait til Wick hires her and she can post on her own here.

  13. Lisa says:

    Hill is anything but a saint in regard to exonerations. He put a person in charge of ruling on the DNA testing petitions who rarely granted them.

    This guy lost an extra 7 years of his life and the actual criminal went free because Hill wouldn’t allow the test:

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/062708dnmetdnaexonerate.4387f2e.html

    This story further explains Hill’s role:

    http://www.exonerated.org/j/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=17&Itemid=1

    According to that story, on Hill’s watch:

    Records provided by the district attorney’s office list 434 applications for DNA tests that have been submitted since April 2001. The applications were submitted by 354 people who have been convicted, some of whom had multiple cases or made more than one request for testing, the district clerk’s electronic records database shows.

    Judges granted tests to 32 applicants, the district attorney’s office said. Of that group, 12 people were exonerated by testing, nine had their guilt affirmed, five had inconclusive results and the remaining six are pending.

    The district attorney’s appellate section, which handles post-conviction applications, declined to identify cases in which prosecutors opposed DNA testing.

    But several lawyers familiar with Mr. Hill’s approach said his prosecutors routinely opposed testing, especially in the first years after the testing law took effect.