Craig Watkins on Death Penalty: No, But With a Yessy Aftertaste
Newsweek wonders in the new issue whether Texans have lost their taste for the death penalty. Yes, the state "still accounts for more than half of all executions in the United States," report Evan Thomas and Martha Brant, but "Texas prosecutors are less willing to seek, and juries are less willing to grant, capital punishment for aggravated murder. In 2006, only 15 Texas convicts were sentenced to death, down from 34 a decade earlier." Which is pretty much how the rest of the country's going. And it's something we addressed in the paper version of Unfair Park only last week.
The only person quoted in the piece is Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who's forgainst the death penalty: "It depends on which day you ask me," Watkins tells Newsweek, which whips out the infamous 1963 Dallas County District Attorney's training circular that was part of the office's "Jury Selection in a Criminal Case" training manual till 1976. (That was the one in which Henry Wade instructed prosecutors, "Do not take Jews, Negroes, Dagos, Mexicans, or a member of any minority race on a jury, no matter how rich or well educated.") And the fact Dallas County leads the country in DNA exonerations, with 14 and counting ain't helping the death penalty's popularity. Says Watkins: "In the near future, we will see the death penalty rarely." --Robert Wilonsky