Craig Watkins, the Dallas prosecutor who built a reputation for freeing wrongfully convicted inmates, wants to allow defendants to appeal convictions and sentences on the basis of race, reports the Associated Press. Watkins would like to see a state Racial Justice Act that might allow defendants to introduce evidence, either in their specific case or through general statistics, to argue that their prosecutions or sentences were influenced by race.
“The issue that we’re bringing to light is to make sure that everything is fair, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, and you’re treated just like anyone else,” Watkins said. “And if you deserve a death sentence, then you will get it. If you didn’t, then you shouldn’t be on death row.” It’s unclear whether the bill could pass the Republican-dominated Legislature, expected to be one of the most conservative in state history. In two states that have passed similar acts, the bills have had some impact and occasionally caused controversy. One prominent advocate for criminal justice reforms, Innocence Project of Texas chief counsel Jeff Blackburn, said, “I think the chances of getting something like that done are between slim and none.”