NEW VOICES: Texas Prosecutor Calls for Review of Death Penalty

Craig Watkins (pictured), the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas, recently called for a review of the state’s capital punishment system. Since becoming D.A. in 2007, Watkins has initiated a conviction-integrity unit to examine criminal cases in the county. Since 2001, Dallas County has exonerated 27 inmates, including 22 through DNA evidence, most during Watkins’s tenure. None of these inmates were from death row. Regarding the death penalty, Watkins said, “I think it’s a legitimate question to have, to ask: `Have we executed someone that didn’t commit the crime?’” Watkins, the first African-American district attorney in Texas, said he is concerned about allegations of faulty evidence or state misconduct that could have led to capital convictions. He is calling on state legislators to review death penalty procedures to ensure the punishment is fairly administered. Watkins recently revealed that his great-grandfather, Richard Johnson, was executed in Texas almost 80 years ago. He remarked, “I think the reforms we’ve made in our criminal justice system are better than any other state in this country. But we still need reforms. And so, I don’t know if I’m the voice for that. I just know, here I am, and I have these experiences.”

(“Texas DA seeks death penalty review,” Associated Press, February 23, 2012). See Innocence. Read more New Voices.