Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins was selected to appear in Texas Super Lawyers 2009, a well-earned distinction. The publication’s article about his crusade, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent,” is worth a read for anybody who cares about the problem of wrongful conviction.
I am baffled by the people in the peanut gallery who blame rape victim Michele Mallin for the failure of the criminal justice system that allowed the wrongful conviction of Timothy Cole. Tragically, Mr. Cole died in prison before he could be exonerated. But it is undisputed that Ms. Mallin was, in fact, raped. The suggestion that she would have knowingly participated in a scheme to arrest and convict someone other than her rapist defies credibility. What’s more, I have no doubt that these same people would have been clamoring for Mr. Cole’s blood if it had been his trial taking place this week rather than his posthumous exoneration.
This paradox is related to the stubborn ignorance that I see when people ask me “How can you represent criminals?” only to have their eyes glaze over if I actually attempt to explain the fact that our constitutional rights and rules of criminal procedure must be exercised in order to prevent the police from getting away with sloppy investigation, suggestive lineup procedures (the real culprits in this case) and worse.
Judge Charlie Baird seems to care about the injustice that can occur when the rules aren’t followed and apply the law accordingly. One can hope that his decision to allow this matter to proceed in his court–and the resulting media circus–will lead to a few more people understanding why that is so important.
4/7/09 Update. Judge Baird issued formal findings in the exhoneration case. Here’s the order, which “blasted the work of the Lubbock police and called on the Legislature to pass criminal justice system reforms” according to this Statesman article.