Thursday, November 09, 2006

Catching up . . .

Sorry about being dormant for a week. I feel like a broken record, but things at work really have been super busy. I've got a few things I want to write a lot more about, but for now, these little tidbits:

*The election results from Tuesday make me so, so happy. More than anything, I think I am just relieved. Relieved to know that the American people can still speak with a powerful voice through the ballot box when they see the government behaving in ways that are shameful and irresponsible. Here's hoping the Dems take what they have been given by the voters and use it to get the country back on track.

*The election results in my old stomping grounds were a bit shocking to me, as the Democrats swept every single one of the 42 contested judgeships in the county, and took the DA's race as well. Dallas, Texas has apparently gone blue, which is quite an interesting turn of events. This means that some good sitting judges are out, including one who I practiced in front of every day for 18 months, and for whom I have an immeasurable amount of respect (and she's both a Republican and someone who came straight from the prosecutor's office to the bench, no less!). But, it also means that a lot of good new people who have a lot to bring to the bench will be serving, including two of my former colleagues. Yes, that's right. Two assistant public defenders who have spent years defending murderers, robbers, rapists, and child molesters were elected as felony judges! And how happy I am to see that the electorate saw through the ridiculous negative advertising that tried to paint them as unsuitable for the bench because they served the vital constitutional role of defending the indigent accused!

*Speaking of my old stomping grounds, The Wretched of the Earth has been on fire lately with some really thoughtful posts about the criminal justice system in Texas and summaries of recent Court of Criminal Appeals decisions. His blog has really come alive and if you're a fan of PD/criminal law blogs, and haven't added him to your list of daily reads yet, get on it!

*And, I just saw posted on CNN that Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes died last night of leukemia. I didn't even know he was sick. I'm too shocked right now to say much, but I do feel that we have lost a truly great journalist.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Another DNA Exoneration in Dallas

Update: A video of the event. I'm sorry I missed it.

Original post:

Twenty-five years after being convicted of a rape he didn't commit, a Dallas man will be released today based on DNA evidence that excludes him as the perpetrator. The article about this case in the Dallas Morning News talks about trying to figure out what led to all these wrongful convictions. When you read the article, it seems pretty obvious to me. A mistaken eyewitness, aided by fault police ID procedures, who was believed by a jury that wasn't doing its job. This case is a classic. When initially asked to describe her attacker, the victim was only able to give a vague description. When shown a photo lineup, she pointed to the defendant and said that he might have been the guy. She was then shown a second lineup and tentatively identified the defendant. He, of course, was the only person who was in both photo lineups. But, when she testified at trial, she said that she was absolutely positive that he was her attacker. Instead of being suspicious of this evolution of certainty by the victim, the jury was convinced of it. They spent 35 minutes debating this man's guilt. Thirty-five measly minutes before convicting a man of a first-degree felony for which he could have been sentenced to prison for life. People say that these types of wrongful convictions won't happen anymore because of DNA evidence, but that is a fallacy. Most cases don't have DNA evidence. In my experience, juries in Dallas County still regularly convict people of serious felonies like aggravated robbery and aggravated assault based solely on the testimony of one eyewitness. Prosecutors spend lots of time in their voir dire telling jurors that the testimony of one witness is enough to convict. Until jurors demand more evidence before taking away a person's freedom, innocent people will continue to be convicted. And there won't be any DNA evidence to fix these mistakes.