Spokesman Takes Blame For Claiming DA Craig Watkins "Helped Free 20 Wrongly Convicted Prisoners" in Campaign E-Mail

Categories: Politics

Sam Merten
Does it matter how many folks Watkins exonerated? When it's the cornerstone of a campaign, you betcha.
While it's well-known that Dallas County leads the country with a whopping 22 exonerations since 2001 -- 20 of which resulted from the preservation of DNA evidence -- there's been some squabbling among Republicans and Democrats about who deserves the bulk of the credit: former District Attorney Bill Hill or his successor, Craig Watkins.

Watkins said "most of them happened after we were elected in January of 2007" in his June interview with the Texas Tribune's Evan Smith. Then his campaign upped the ante on July 29 when it sent out an e-mail giving Watkins credit for all 20 of those exonerated by DNA evidence.

"Well, that's wrong," campaign spokesman -- and former Dallas Observer associate editor -- Eric Celeste told Unfair Park, acknowledging that only eight of the DNA and 10 total exonerations occurred under Watkins's tenure. "I'm surprised nobody else has said that to me. It should say, 'the DA's office.'"

Although Kurt Watkins, Craig's cousin, signed the e-mail, Celeste takes responsibility.

"That's on me," he says, claiming that he wrote the copy and that the website will be updated. "I screwed up."

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