Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Texas Justice: Not So Just

One of the many reasons to oppose the death penalty: so much of the criminal justice system is wrought with corruption. Henry Wade (of "Roe v. Wade" fame) was the DA in Dallas for 36 years. Now under a black DA, nineteen cases Wade's office prosecuted have been overturned in the past seven years when DNA evidence reexamined proved that the wrong person had been convicted and imprisoned. A cautionary tale.

Grand Junction Daily Sentinal: After Dallas DA's death, 19 convictions are undone

DALLAS — As district attorney of Dallas for an unprecedented 36 years, Henry Wade was the embodiment of Texas justice.

A strapping 6-footer with a square jaw and a half-chewed cigar clamped between his teeth, The Chief, as he was known, prosecuted Jack Ruby. He was the Wade in Roe v. Wade. And he compiled a conviction rate so impressive that defense attorneys ruefully called themselves the 7 Percent Club.

But now, seven years after Wade's death, The Chief's legacy is taking a beating.

Nineteen convictions — three for murder and the rest involving rape or burglary — won by Wade and two successors who trained under him have been overturned after DNA evidence exonerated the defendants. About 250 more cases are under review.


No other county in America — and almost no state, for that matter — has freed more innocent people from prison in recent years than Dallas County, where Wade was DA from 1951 through 1986.

Current District Attorney Craig Watkins, who in 2006 became the first black elected chief prosecutor in any Texas county, said that more wrongly convicted people will go free.

"There was a cowboy kind of mentality and the reality is that kind of approach is archaic, racist, elitist and arrogant," said Watkins, who is 40 and never worked for Wade or met him.

[]

The new DA and other Wade detractors say the cases won under Wade were riddled with shoddy investigations, evidence was ignored and defense lawyers were kept in the dark. They note that the promotion system under Wade rewarded prosecutors for high conviction rates.

In the case of James Lee Woodard — released in April after 27 years in prison for a murder DNA showed he didn't commit — Wade's office withheld from defense attorneys photographs of tire tracks at the crime scene that didn't match Woodard's car.

"Now in hindsight, we're finding lots of places where detectives in those cases, they kind of trimmed the corners to just get the case done,"
said Michelle Moore, a Dallas County public defender and president of the Innocence Project of Texas. "Whether that's the fault of the detectives or the DA's, I don't know."

John Stickels, a University of Texas at Arlington criminology professor and a director of the Innocence Project of Texas, blames a culture of "win at all costs."

"When someone was arrested, it was assumed they were guilty," he said. "I think prosecutors and investigators basically ignored all evidence to the contrary and decided they were going to convict these guys."

3 comments:

The Light said...

My Daddy never had a racist bone in his body?

Huh? Wha?

Even my white farm boy Dad told me that everyone was racist; he also said that very thing was what made you a human; being intelligent meant recognizing that inherent racism and fighting against it.

lovable liberal said...

"Texas justice" is an oxymoron.

truth said...

"Justice Rehnquist"