Dallas DA Watkins On Prosecutors’ Role In Finding Wrongful Convictions


After a new report on wrongful convictions said Texas led all states last year with 13, NPR interviewed Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins, who established the nation’s first Conviction Integrity Unit in Dallas in 2007. Watkins says, “We’ve learned … that some of the techniques used in investigating cases and even pursuing prosecutions were flawed.” Because many suspects were identified incorrectly, “we decided to go to the double-blind system and convince the different municipalities within Dallas County to take a look at how they present potential assailants to victims and witnesses. We’ve also learned that storing biological evidence needs to be done in such a way that at some point it could be tested in the future. And we’ve learned that it’s not always allowable for us to solely rely on testimony of a co-defendant.”

Watkins adds that, “People actually don’t understand the role of a prosecutor,” explaining that “a prosecutor is not to convict but to seek justice. And so, if a person is being wrongfully convicted it’s the responsibility of the prosecutor – not the defense attorney – to make sure that that wrong is righted; to make sure that not only is a person exonerated but to also seek the individual that actually committed the crime.”

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