death penalty news—-TEXAS

Sept. 18


Collin County needs to review capital cases—-Justice may not be blind in
some Collin County courtrooms.

Earlier this week, Dallas DA Craig Watkins told the press he wanted to
re-examine about 40 death penalty cases from Dallas County. Watkins also
said he would seek temporary stays of execution if needed until he
completes the reviews of all Dallas death sentences currently on death

Collin DA John Roach needs to do the same.

Both Dallas and Collin Counties have been in the news lately for their
handling of capital trials. Dallas County has seen a number of high
profile exonerations of innocent defendants convicted in an era of "win at
all costs" prosecutorial misconduct. Mr. Watkins cited the case of Patrick
Waller, who was convicted of a 1992 robbery-rape.

By the time Waller was finally cleared, the statute of limitations had run
out on prosecuting the real perpetrators. Not only did an innocent man
spend years in prison wrongfully, but the real guilty party got off

This week, Collin County District Court Judge Greg Brewer dismissed the
murder indictment against Michael Blair. Blair was convicted and sentenced
to die for the murder of young Ashley Estell in 1993. DNA has since
demonstrated his innocence…and for 15 years the real child killer has
been free.

Another death sentence may be reversed in the case of Charles Dean Hood
who was convicted and is scheduled to die in a case that has rocked the
legal community. Twice now, Hood has come within days of being executed
after a trial prosecuted by the illicit, secret lover of the judge.

Judicial and prosecutorial zeal has caused the recusal of another Collin
County judge in the case of Mark Bell.

Collin County is well known for its no-nonsense harsh sentences and
vigorous prosecution of evil doers. Unfortunately, it appears that, at
least some of the time, our zeal to convict has overrun our sense of

Our notion that all defendants are innocent until proven guilty in a fair
trial is one of the glues that holds our society together. Most of us
don't fear our courts, because we are confident that even if we are
wrongly charged, the truth will prevail.

When that confidence is lost, we no longer live under the rule of law, but
the rule of men – men who wish us harm.

In a letter to DA Roach on the Hood case, Texas Attorney General Greg
Abbott wrote, "… a death sentence is the most serious and solemn act of
any state. The impartiality of a defendant's trial and conviction must be
beyond reproach."

As important as the notion of a fair trial is the unavoidable problem that
when an innocent man is convicted, a guilty criminal is left free to
commit new crimes – to hurt more victims.

Dallas DA Watkins stated this in his statement this week. Referring to the
conviction of Patrick Waller, Watkins noted, "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."

As General Abbott wrote, "neither the victims nor justice will be served"
by the execution of a man convicted in an unfair trial.

(source: Pegasus News)