Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins boasts of his felony prosecutors’ nearly perfect conviction rate. He says prosecutors successfully get convictions in 99.4 percent of cases handled by his office. That’s true, says the Dallas Morning News, but his office doesn’t just count cases that go to trial; it includes cases where the defendant pleads guilty, too. “He’s misleading the voters,” said Danny Clancy, Watkins’ Republican opponent in the November election. “It makes them think that they are winning every case they try. It’s not true. Just as folks are found guilty every day in the courthouse, there are others who are found not guilty.”
Watkins says his felony conviction rate was 99.4 percent for 2009. The Morning News says that number drops to a still very healthy 87.6 percent when calculating only how often juries convict defendants. “If you’re just doing jury trials, then that’s shortsighted,” Watkins said. “It’s about more than just putting on your boots and arguing before a jury.” Clancy said the current method is not fair to voters. He said he’s not questioning the math – just the formula. An accurate rate, Clancy said, would be using only trials before a jury or judge and showing acquittals vs. convictions. Watkins said that only caring about jury trials leads to a “notch in the belt” mentality. Like trials, he said, plea bargains offer justice. “It’s about seeking justice for both sides,” Watkins said, referring to the victim and the defendant.