Dallas DA, In Tough Race, Now Favors Some Capital Punishment


Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, Texas’ first elected black district attorney, made national news after taking office in 2007 when he declared that he personally opposed the death penalty on moral and religious grounds. Now in a rough re-election race, the 42-year-old Democrat said he’s changed his mind about the use of capital punishment. “I came in with a certain philosophical view. I don’t have that anymore,” Watkins told the Dallas Morning News. “From a religious standpoint, I think it’s an archaic way of doing justice. But in this job, I’ve seen people who cannot be rehabilitated.”

Despite his new philosophy, Watkins said he still has concerns that prosecutors somewhere might send the wrong person to death row. He said that even when he was opposed to the death penalty, he still allowed his office to seek it when warranted. He even helped successfully prosecute a death penalty case two years ago. Watkins’ Republican opponent in the November election, Danny Clancy, supports the death penalty but said it should be used only for the most heinous crimes. County GOP chairman Jonathan Neerman said Watkins is “playing politics” and trying “to toughen his image.”

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