Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dallas D.A.'s Reputation Sinks Amid Reversals: New D.A. blames "cowboy" mentality; 19 convictions overturned..







The reputation of Dallas D.A. Henry Wade who gathered evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald and also prosecuted Jack Ruby is under assault. The Associated Press reports tonight that 19 of Wade's convictions have been overturned by DNA evidence; and 250 more of his 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."


T.

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