Monday, 9 April 2007

More on Dallas County's Latest Exoneration - UPDATED

More on Dallas County's Latest Exoneration - UPDATED

The Los Angeles Times has, "Texas men's innocence puts a county on trial."

Dallas County has had more people exonerated by DNA than all but three entire states. Texas, which leads the nation in convictions overturned by genetic testing, has had 27, Illinois, 26, and New York, 23. California has had nine exonerations.

With countless current and former Texas prisoners clamoring for testing to clear their names — more than 430 in Dallas County — law enforcement officials predict that the number of overturned convictions will grow exponentially.

Texas prosecutors have typically fought activists' attempts to revisit cases. But Dallas County Dist. Atty. Craig Watkins, the first African American elected to the office, has forged an unusual alliance with the Innocence Project, a New York-based group that uses DNA testing to challenge convictions.

Watkins has proclaimed "a new day in Dallas" and is promising to right past wrongs of his office — particularly the many disputed convictions during the reign of Henry Wade, Dallas County's top prosecutor from 1951 to 1987.

Later this morning in a Dallas County Courtroom, James Giles is expected to be formally exonerated of a crime he did not commit. He will be the 13th person exonerated in Dallas County, the most in any county in America. The Houston Chronicle carries an AP report, "Dallas County DA says 1982 rape conviction based on mistaken identity."

The Dallas County District Attorney's office and Giles' lawyer both planned to present evidence they say proves his innocence.

"He is overjoyed to finally have this day," said Vanessa Potkin, Giles' lawyer and a staff attorney with the Innocence Project. "It's been a long journey for him. He says he has to laugh to keep from crying."

Assistant Dallas County District Attorney Lisa Smith said her office's investigation into the 25-year-old case found that a co-defendant's statements implicating another man were never presented at trial nor provided to Giles' lawyer.

The case turned on a case of mistaken identity, she said.

The report also notes:

Texas leads the nation with 27 DNA exonerations, one more than Illinois, according to Innocence Project figures. There have been 198 exonerations nationwide.

Earlier coverage is here.

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