D.A. to Discuss Righting Wrongful Conviction Cases
2 Exonerated Defendants to Join Watkins at Justice Studies and Pre-Law Event
Feb. 18, 2008
Craig Watkins, Dallas County district attorney, will visit UT Dallas to discuss his role in the release of wrongfully convicted Texas prisoners. He will be joined by two men who were exonerated through DNA evidence, Charles Chatman and James Woodard.
Pardon Our Progress
The event, sponsored by the Center for Crime and Justice Studies in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, and the UT Dallas Pre-Law Society, will be held Wednesday, March 4, in Davidson Auditorium in the School of Management (SOM 1.118). Watkins’ one-hour talk, “The District Attorney’s Role in Criminal Justice Reform,” will begin at 5:30 p.m.
“Craig Watkins has a unique perspective on the role of a district attorney which it is important for our students to hear,” said Dr. Anthony Champagne, political science professor and director of the Pre-Law program. “In Watkins' view, the district attorney's role is larger than prosecuting the accused; it is the pursuit of just outcomes in the criminal justice process.”
Champagne worked with Dr. Jim Marquart, head of the Criminology and Sociology programs to organize the event.
Watkins is the chief law enforcement officer for Dallas County. He was elected district attorney in 2006 and inaugurated in January 2007, becoming the first African-American to serve in the position.
In July of 2007, Watkins established the Conviction Integrity Unit, which oversees the post-conviction review of more than 400 DNA cases in conjunction with Innocence Project of Texas. The Conviction Integrity Unit is the first division of its kind in the United States. The IPOT is a nonprofit organization dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions and securing freedom for men and women wrongfully imprisoned for serious crimes in Texas. Student volunteers and experienced legal advocates dedicate their time to investigate claims of innocence filed by inmates.
The partnership between the Conviction Integrity Unit and the Innocence Project has resulted in the release of 19 wrongfully convicted prisoners, including lecture guests Chatman and Woodard.
Charles Chatman spent more than 26 years in prison for an aggravated sexual assault he did not commit. James Woodard served more than 27 years for a Dallas County murder he did not commit, making him the longest serving man in the U.S. to be released as a result of DNA evidence.
Watkins, Chatman and Woodard will take audience questions following the lecture. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, or to reserve a seat, contact (972) 883-6257 or register online.