death penalty news—-TEXAS

Oct. 13


DNA exonerations cast doubt on eyewitnesses

Newspaper: Faulty eyewitness testimony helped secure wrongful convictions

Dallas County leads the nation in DNA exonerations

All but 5 faulty convictions occurred under ex-District Attorney Henry

"We know that eyewitness identification is faulty," current prosecutor

Faulty eyewitness testimony that helped secure wrongful convictions in
Dallas County, which leads the nation in DNA exonerations, sent the
innocent to prison as police and prosecutors ignored safeguards and built
cases with flimsy corroboration, according to a newspaper investigation.

Dallas County D.A. Craig Watkins wants to prosecute any prosecutors who
hide evidence.

1 of 2 Victims pressured to pick suspects, the use of suggestive lineup
procedures and evidence withheld to preserve shaky identifications are
former practices discovered by The Dallas Morning News in an eight-month
review of previously closed Dallas County case files.

The reliance on witness accounts has resulted in innocent men sent to
prison and taxpayers spending more than $3 million in compensation and
incarceration in Dallas County on wrongfully convicted suspects, according
to the report, to be published Sunday.

"Eyewitness testimony was gold," said Kevin Brooks, who heads the district
attorney's felony trial bureau. "If the witness said they saw it, they saw

In all but 1 of the 19 convictions resulting in DNA exonerations, the
newspaper reported, police and prosecutors built their case on eyewitness
accounts, even though they knew such testimony can be fatally flawed.

No one has been charged with lying or disciplined for incompetence or
negligence in connection with the exonerations.

All but five occurred under the late District Attorney Henry Wade, who
served from 1951 to 1986 and ran an office marked by take-no-prisoners
trial tactics, conviction rates that topped 90 % and record-length

"No one ever thought a 1-eyewitness case was good," said Joe Kendall, a
prosecutor under Wade from 1980 to 1982. "But if you had a 1-eyewitness
case, and it was a rape case, and the victim said that's the one, you
couldn't dismiss."

Current prosecutor Craig Watkins, the state's first elected black district
attorney, said he is trying to instill in his prosecutors the need to be
more skeptical and to seek corroboration.

"We know that eyewitness identification is faulty," Watkins said.

(source: Associated Press)