Dallas County DA wants to re-examine nearly all of pending death row cases
Troubled that innocent people have been imprisoned by faulty prosecutions,
District Attorney Craig Watkins said Monday that he would re-examine
nearly 40 death penalty convictions and would seek to halt executions, if
necessary, to give the reviews time to proceed.
Mr. Watkins told The Dallas Morning News that problems exposed by 19
DNA-based exonerations in Dallas County have convinced him he should
ensure that no death row inmate is actually innocent.
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins "It's not saying I'm putting
a moratorium on the death penalty," said Mr. Watkins, whose reviews would
be of all of the cases now on death row handled by his predecessors. "It's
saying that maybe we should withdraw those dates and look at those cases
from a new perspective to make sure that those individuals that are on
death row need to be there and they need to be executed."
He cited the exonerations and stories by The News about problems with
those prosecutions as the basis for his decision. The exonerations have
routinely revealed faulty eyewitness testimony and, in a few cases,
Fred Moss, a law professor at Southern Methodist University, said he had
never heard of another prosecutor in the country who had conducted the
type of review Mr. Watkins proposed.
"It's really quite extraordinary," Mr. Moss said.
Toby Shook, who sent several people to death row while he was a Dallas
County prosecutor, said Mr. Watkins was imposing an unnecessary new level
of review and a hardship on victims' families.
"Perhaps he hasn't thought this through, but essentially what he's saying
is, 'There is 1 more court of appeal and that's me,' " said Mr. Shook, who
was defeated by Mr. Watkins 2 years ago. "That's going to be devastating
to a family."
Mr. Watkins, who has struggled publicly with his feelings about capital
punishment, said studying the small pool of death row cases could
illustrate larger problems in the justice system and provide legislators
with an incentive to enact reforms.
But he said it was the exoneration of Patrick Waller in July not his
personal qualms that prompted him to pursue reviewing death penalty
cases, although he said it's a topic that has been on his mind since an
exoneration occurred in his first week in office.
Mr. Waller was cleared of a 1992 robbery-rape. The statute of limitations
to prosecute the true perpetrators has expired even though they have
admitted to the crimes. Had previous District Attorney Bill Hill not
denied testing, the results could have prevented one of the men from being
"That's really what got me to thinking," Mr. Watkins said. "This is larger
than just having innocent folks in jail. This is about having criminals
out on the street with cover to go and commit their offenses."
Mr. Watkins has taken steps to halt an execution before.
Last September, he asked to withdraw the execution date for Joseph Roland
Lave when the district attorney's office realized that evidence requested
by his appellate attorneys was not released and possibly lied about.
Mr. Watkins said that he believes Mr. Lave is guilty but that he was not
prosecuted fairly because evidence was withheld. Mr. Lave was sentenced to
death for a 1992 robbery and double murder in Richardson.
To halt an execution, judges from the trial court where the conviction was
obtained would have to sign the order to approve withdrawing the execution
date, said Dallas County state District Judge Andy Chatham.
Judge Chatham, who signed the order to withdraw Mr. Lave's execution date,
said Monday that any similar requests would need specific reasons for
stopping the execution. Those reasons are DNA testing or a writ of habeas
corpus that showed the need for additional court proceedings.
"What you're not going to have is 'Judge, we just want to look at it,' "
said Judge Chatham, who is presiding over a death penalty case this week
from Mr. Watkins' office. "There has to be some reason."
Mr. Watkins said he believes a judge will grant the request if both the
state and defense attorneys agree. Mr. Watkins said he would request new
execution dates if a review shows the inmates were prosecuted fairly and
are guilty of the crime.
The DA's district attorney's office is this week seeking the death penalty
against a man who was convicted Monday of killing his two children. Mr.
Watkins also plans to question witnesses himself in another death penalty
case slated for later this year.
"At the end of the day, I'm not saying these people shouldn't be
executed," Mr. Watkins said.
But, he added, "I don't want someone to be executed on my watch for
something they didn't do."
Mr. Watkins said the cases will be investigated by the office's conviction
integrity unit, which was created last year and is reviewing DNA tests
requests denied under Mr. Hill.
The district attorney's office will review the oldest cases first because
those are the most likely to be set for execution.
Only 2 men from Dallas County, Gregory Edward Wright and Robert Jean
Hudson, currently have scheduled execution dates. Both men were sent to
death row in unrelated stabbing deaths of women.
Defense attorney Richard Franklin, who represented Mr. Lave as well as
other capital murder defendants, said such a review is necessary because
of potential prosecutorial misconduct and the problems with eyewitness
"If there are any death penalty cases that rely on eyewitness testimony
alone, then they need to be reviewed," Mr. Franklin said. "All the science
points to the fact that eyewitness testimony is no good."
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Save Reginald Blanton, sentenced to death in Texas due to racial prejudice
Sign now: http://www.PetitionOnline.com/reggie/petition.html
To: U.S. Government; U.S. Congress; U.S. Senate; U.S. Department of
Justice; State Bar of Texas; Texas Governor; Senator Barack Obama; UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights; members of the Radical Transnational Party;
Petition to save the life of Reginald Blanton, sentenced to death in Texas
due to racial prejudice
A case that demonstrates the injustice of the death penalty, which must be
abolished, starting from the United States of America
by EveryOne Group ---- http://www.everyonegroup.com
A sentence issued without proof of guilt in a climate of intolerance
Reginald Blanton, aged 27, an African American, originally from
California, has been in jail for the last 9 years (7 on Death Row) accused
of having killed when he was 18 his close friend Carlos Garza for reasons
connected to drug possession and pushing. EveryOne Group has decided to
promote an international campaign in the attempt to save Reginalds life.
"We are convinced the inquiry and trial that led to Reginald being
sentenced to death reveal an abuse of the law, errors of form and
procedural flaws say Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau,
leaders of Everyone.
Reginald is African American, he was a street kid and a member of a gang.
He belonged to a world that the US institutions, and Texas in particular,
fight with such rigour it often becomes prejudice. We suspect the verdict
contains elements of racial discrimination and this is confirmed by the
fact that Reginald Blanton was not judged, according to his constitutional
rights, by a jury of his peers. The District Attorney also arranged it so
that the entire jury was made up of white Americans. And it is for this
reason that the 5th Circuit of Appeal recognised this violation of his
assurance of a fair trial". Reginald is presently an inmate on death row
in Polunksy Prison, in Livingston, Texas. For the last 7 years he has been
attempting to prove his innocence (but most of all to show the level of
inhumanity the inmates of death row are subjected to) through peaceful and
non-violent protests - hunger strikes lasting weeks, articles given to his
closest friends or his mother Anna, with whom the activists of EveryOne
are in constant contact with. "We are convinced the US judicial system (
which still makes use of the death penalty) too often makes legal errors
and procedural flaws," continue the activists.
"The law decides whether a human being should live or die with a margin of
error that is inevitably high and often linked to social and personal
bias, as well as to the inmate's previous record and race. All this in
defiance of article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We
ask ourselves how many other innocent people will be put to death by the
executioner before the death penalty is abolished and a respect of life is
"We are able to demonstrate an incredible sequence of errors and
violations of human rights in Reginald Blanton's case," say the activists,
"but we also wish to reassert the need to promote, in all areas, the
abolition of the death penalty.
Considering the impossibility, by both the police and judicial system, to
prove the guilt "without the shadow of a doubt" of an accused person;
considering the prejudice that is inevitably present in some members of a
jury; considering we are talking about human beings subjected to cultural,
instinctive and media influences; we believe that the medieval use of the
death penalty (which severs the life of a human being) denies the people
and the organizations the time to gather the necessary evidence for
proving the inmates innocence through further investigations and
deductions. Work that can often take many years, even decades.
No law should deny an inmate the chance of being rehabilitated, freed and
even compensated, until the last day of his life on Earth. We must also
consider that often the memory and information held by the prisoner is
often indispensable for reaching a new and often more just verdict."
To support the campaign to save Reginald Blantons life and to promote the
abolition of the death penalty, sign the petition also at the following
link: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/SaveReginald/ and send emails,
postcards and letters to the following addresses:
Prison where Reginald Blanton is detained:
3872 F.M. 350 South
Livingston, Tx 77351
Please specify in the letter/postcard: Reginald Blanton - #999395
Write to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice:
classify [at] tdcj.state.tx.us;
parole.div [at] tdcj.state.tx.us;
bpp-pio [at] tdcj.state.tx.us;
parole.pio [at] tdcj.state.tx.us,
Write to the Federal Bureau of Prisons of USA: webmaster [at] bop.gov.
Write to the US Government:
Write to the UN High Commissioneer for Human Rights: InfoDesk [at]
ohchr.org; niu [at] ohchr.org; gmagazzeni [at] ohchr.org; dexrel [at]
Write to the Radical Transnatonal Party: radical.party [at]
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE CAMPAIGN, PLEASE CONTACT:
ONG based in Italy
info [at] everyonegroup.com