Diane Rehm had a heated show this morning as our own Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins and Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley got into a debate over DNA exoneration (or rather the motivations and importance of said testing). Diane had to shush them! I love it when she shushes people. But I can’t blame Watkins for getting peeved. Bradley repeatedly dug at Watkins for being an attention hog (he referenced the Discovery reality show) more interested in being the star of the DNA movement while other DA offices are just plugging away quietly (really?). And his basic argument was that while DNA proved innocence in some cases, the vast majority of requests for DNA exoneration do not prove the criminal innocent. The majority of cases are rightfully convicted, “The elevation of a single exoneration” over the entire justice system is wrong Bradley said. That’s like saying as long as most of the meat that comes out of a slaughter plant is healthy, we don’t need to investigate a few cases of Ecoli…at least not until toddlers starting dying after eating burgers at Carl’s Jr.
Watkins countered saying it’s not about him but about justice even,”if they are false [DNA requests] it’s still our responsibility,” to see that a person has their day in court. And since there have been something like 25 exonerations in Dallas, the vast majority of whom are African American males most recently Cornelius Dupree who spent 30 years in jail after being wrongfully convicted of rape, and many of the cases were prosecuted on false eye witness identification it seems like something needs to be done. And Watkins said convicting someone of the wrong crime means the person who did commit the crime remains free. And where’s the justice in that? If toddlers were dying from bad burgers, parents (and likely the Williamson County DA) would be clamoring for a review of the meat industry. Well, as Watkins indicated, innocent people have been executed in Texas prisons. Men have lost the majority of their lives in a jail cell. Justice is supposed to be blind. Not a crap shoot for some. And since when is even one wrongful conviction acceptable, Mr. Bradley? What law school taught you that? What oath did you take when you got into office? I’m not totally advocating Mr. Watkins personally. His meteoric rise to law fame (Texan of the Year, a reality show, a spot on The View) is off putting to some (at least to DAs who won’t get a chance to be as popular as he is). But then we’re talking about a district attorney, the first black DA in Texas, who is putting the system on trial. Who is saying things are wrong. That makes you unpopular with just about everyone in the legal profession.