"It's difficult," says Watkins. "I still walk around the office gently because I know there are a lot of people who still don't want me here.
" But, he says, every time justice is done, we "restore credibility that law enforcement can work for everyone."
APRIL 4 (Sat) 7:00 - 8:30pm
Univ. of Alabama at BIRMINGHAM - Hill University Center
1. Making DNA evidence available to all convicted felons
2. "Convict at all Costs", what does that mean?
3. Should the legislature abolish judicial override
Event is open to the publicPanel discussion at UAB, sponsored by the Dept of Justice Sciences and the Justice Committee of the Universal Unitarian Church of Birmingham.
Panelists & Profiles:
1. Dallas Texas DA, Craig Watkins. (Elected 2006) - First African American to be elected, District Attorney in the state of Texas. http://www.dallasda
.com/index. html2. Jefferson County, Family Court Presiding Judge, Brian Huff - http://10jc.Program Director: alacourt. gov/bh.html
3. Attorney, Richard Jaffe, Birmingham, AL - http://www.rjaffela
w.com/Bio/ RichardJaffe. asp
Dr. John Sloan, III, Chair of the Dept of Justice Sciences, UAB
uab.edu/show. asp?durki= 73267
Co-Chair, Justice Committee
Universal Unitarian Church, Birmingham, AL
More Information on "Who is Craig Watkins":
com/watch? v=OkdbZ6_ jkcg
Special Guest: The Honorable Craig Watkins, Dallas Tx Dist Atty.
Internationally known for his unprecedented act of opening the prosecutor's office to the Texas Innocence Project for the purpose of undoing wrongful convictions.
Mr. Watkins' innovative strategies have garnered him local, national and international attention from CNN, ABC's "Good Morning America," German TV, Dallas Morning News, New York Times, Washington Post, L. A. Times and Chicago Tribune, to name a few.
Craig Watkins, a Dallas native, was inaugurated on January 1, 2007, as the Criminal District Attorney (DA) for Dallas County, Texas. He is the first African-American elected to that position in Texas. As DA for Dallas County, his "smart on crime" philosophy engages innovative strategies throughout the prosecutorial process and seeks to address the root causes of why offenders commit crime. DA Watkins' interest in conviction integrity led to partnering with the Innocence Project of Texas to aid the wrongfully convicted.
District Attorney Watkins was educated in the local public school system, received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Prairie View A&M University and a Juris Doctorate degree from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law.
He is a member of Friendship-West Baptist Church, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., Prairie View A&M University Alumni Association and is affiliated with several professional and civic organizations. Mr. Watkins has received numerous honors and awards for his outstanding accomplishments in the community from an array of organizations and groups.
Dallas Urban League Torch Award
- One of Eclipse Magazine's "Super Lawyers" January 2007
- District Attorney Watkins was featured in the March 5, 2007 issue of JET.
- District Attorney Watkins was featured in the May 2007 issue of Ebony Magazine as one of THE EBONY POWER 150 as the next generation of African-American leaders.
- Featured in the September 2007 issue of Texas Monthly
- District Attorney Watkins' innovative strategies as the new DA in Dallas County have garnered him local, national and international attention from CNN, ABC's "Good Morning America," German TV, Dallas Morning News, New York Times, Washington Post, L. A. Times and Chicago Tribune, to name a few.
DA Watkins and wife Tanya have three children — Chad, Cale and Taryn.
Exoneration ManNovember 2008 By JOHN BUNTIN | Photograph by Danny Turner
Most district attorneys make a name for themselves by winning convictions. Craig Watkins has done it by reversing convictions that never should have happened.
>> Craig Watkins, 39
>> District Attorney, Dallas County, Texas
>> Video: Watch Craig Watkins accept award
>> When he worked as a public defender, Watkins found that even the innocent felt pressured to plead guilty rather than take their chances before a jury. "That happened a lot," Watkins says. "It did such a disservice to the notion of justice."
From 1951 to 1987, the Dallas County district attorney's office was the domain of Henry Wade, a legendary prosecutor who personally never lost a case — and who rarely missed an opportunity to seek the maximum punishment for criminals. But in impoverished, predominantly African-American South Dallas, Wade's hardball tactics created resentment and distrust.
"Affluent people, people accepted by society, loved law enforcement. All of the other people who were economically disadvantaged, they didn't trust it — and I think rightly so," says Watkins. So in 2002, Watkins ran for D.A. Despite having no name recognition outside of South Dallas, Watkins came within 10,000 votes of winning. Four years later, he tried again and won, in the process becoming Texas's first elected African-American district attorney.
Watkins had a lot to prove. More than 200 of the 267 attorneys Watkins began managing had actively campaigned for his opponent because they didn't think Watkins had enough trial experience. At the same time, he believed he had a mandate to rectify past injustices. In February 2007, a mere one month after taking office, Watkins found himself face to face with a momentous decision.
The occasion was a court hearing for James Giles, who had spent 10 years in prison for a rape that subsequent DNA testing showed he did not commit. Giles was released. Afterwards, attorneys Barry Scheck and Jeff Blackburn — nonprofit leaders who work to free the wrongfully convicted from prison — presented Watkins with an unprecedented proposal. They volunteered to help Watkins' office review the files of more than 350 inmates, some dating back to as early as 1970, where physical evidence existed that could either confirm the inmate's guilt or establish his innocence.
A riskier step for a novice D.A. would be hard to imagine. Watkins agreed to it. That spring, he went to the Dallas County court of commissioners and won $450,000 to create a conviction-integrit
y unit to reinvestigate old cases. Since then, the unit has reviewed more than 180 case files, of which 21 have been flagged for DNA testing or further investigation. So far, a total of 19 Dallas County prisoners have been exonerated or freed. What Watkins has shown is that there's as much justice in clearing the names of the innocent as there is in putting the guilty behind bars.
"It's difficult," says Watkins. "I still walk around the office gently because I know there are a lot of people who still don't want me here." But, he says, every time justice is done, we "restore credibility that law enforcement can work for everyone."
Saturday, 14 February 2009
- Wrongful Conviction event is in BIRMINGHAM ---- UPDATED announcement with clarification TIME & PLACE