Craig Watkins's Legislative Wish List

Categories: Crime
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On the other side is a lengthy missive we just received from the Dallas County District Attorney's Office in which Craig Watkins outlines his to-do list for the new Legislative session. But you can probably guess what's top-of-the-pops with a D.A. seeking criminal system reforms: eyewitness identification reform, especially following the DNA exoneration of Cornelius Dupree Jr. last week after he served 30 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. But there are other items on the agenda as well. Among them: videotaped confessions and "extending student loan forgiveness to prosecutors." Jump for the whole thing.
District Attorney Craig Watkins Proposes Legislation to Reform Criminal Justice System

(DALLAS, TX - January 12, 2011) - During the 2011 Legislative Session, Dallas County District Attorney (DA) Craig Watkins will be proposing new legislation that would reform the criminal justice system throughout the state. The key pieces of legislation Mr. Watkins will be seeking support for include: requiring a DNA sample for every individual who is arrested; reforming the eyewitness identification process; requiring law enforcement to videotape all confessions; establishing standard guidelines for the retention and storage of biological and physical evidence; and extending student loan forgiveness to prosecutors.

"One of the recurring issues we have seen in several of the exoneration cases is faulty eyewitness identification," said Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins. "Historically, law enforcement agencies throughout Dallas County and around the state have followed their own procedures for conducting eyewitness interviews and photo line-ups. The largest agency in our jurisdiction now uses the double-blind system, where the officer presenting the photo line-up is not the investigating officer on the case and therefore has no idea who the suspect is or whether the suspect's photo is even among the photos being presented to the eyewitness. If we are successful getting this piece of legislation passed, the double-blind system would be the standard by which all law enforcement agencies present line-ups, thereby ensuring more reliable and untainted eyewitness identifications."

In addition to eyewitness identification reform, Mr. Watkins is also proposing new legislation that would require a DNA sample be taken for identification purposes, just like fingerprints, for every individual who is arrested. The collection of a DNA sample involves a simple swab on the inside of an individual's cheek. A similar provision already exists in the juvenile code allowing for the procurement of DNA from juveniles who are arrested/adjudicated (usually applies to sex offenses).

Another proposal is requiring law enforcement to videotape all confessions. While there is a provision in Art. 38.22 (b) of the Code of Criminal Procedure allowing for the recording of the statement of an accused individual, DA Watkins would like to see that provision expanded by requiring it to be mandatory that confessions given to police agencies be videotaped. The added benefit of having confessions videotaped is that it would alleviate any discrepancies between law enforcement and the accused.

The other two pieces of legislation DA Watkins will be proposing during this Legislative Session are developing a standard for the retention and storage of biological and physical evidence and extending student loan forgiveness to prosecutors. Over the past several years with all of the exonerations and the work of the various Innocence Projects, it has become evident that each crime lab in the state follows its individual policies as it pertains to retaining and storing its biological and physical evidence. Things that should be standardized are the length of storage, manner of storage, archival system and process to retrieve the evidence when it is needed. A state-approved guideline for how evidence is kept, regardless of jurisdiction, would give reliability, credibility and integrity to the process of evidence retention.

Finally, to encourage recent law graduates to work in their communities as public servants, DA Watkins would like to see funding for the provision in the education code that gives prosecutors relief from school loans in exchange for a commitment to work in public service at a district attorney's/county attorney's office.

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Captain Rob!
Captain Rob!

Lolz... First I would suggest the Dallas County District Attorney revamp it's ways of doing things in order to follow the law. I'd like to see the DA go after the numerous city attorneys within Dallas County and get them for impersonating a public servant and official oppression. The state constitution says only a county attorney or district attorney can represent the state and shall do so in ALL criminal cases. City Attorneys have no business prosecuting criminal actions (traffic tickets) cause they aren't county attorneys.

G_David
G_David

The only rationale I can see for the relief from school loans is the disparity between what prosecutors make and what many of them could be making in the private sector. While it's true that many other city workers (and non-profit workers) might make more in the private world, the difference isn't near what a talented lawyer experiences.

Jay
Jay

So you're saying prosecutors are forced to work at the district attorney's office? I was led to believe these were jobs that the applicants voluntarily sought and accepted, with compensation and other work place conditions revealed in advance.

G_David
G_David

Thanks for helping me make my point. Nowhere did I say anyone is forced to work for the DA. If you want top grads, and you can't match salary, you look for other ways to attract and compensate them. Otherwise, for the most part you get the ones that can't find work anywhere else. I guess you're okay with that.

cp
cp

See, now, where did you get the notion that "top grads" are only motivated by money? There are still a few decent, honest people who want to make a difference in this world, and VOLUNTEER to take various lower paying jobs in their fields, not because they can't hack it anywhere else.

You're probably one of those who think the saying "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach" is funny.....

Jay
Jay

"Relief from school loans." That is a well crafted euphemism. Someone is going to have to repay those student loans. The DA knows the county commissioners hold his purse strings. What he really means is he wants taxpayers, at the state level, to indirectly subsidize his employee's net income.

cp
cp

Right, and someone has to PAY for that education in the first place. What he really wants is free education for prosecutors. Well, what about other public-servant professions? There are many educated engineers and lawyers working down at City Hall, for example. What about police and firemen? Better yet, what about non-profit professionals?

Jay
Jay

I get it now:

Republican - Only rich people deserve tax breaks.Democrat - Only my chosen special interest group deserves tax breaks.

Justin Bigelow
Justin Bigelow

That one about the loan forgiveness for work in the DA office is interesting, what does the average city prosecutor make a year?

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

According to DA's office spokesperson Jamille Bradfield: "In Dallas County, approximately $55,000 a year."

Jay
Jay

Robert, considering that the DA very publicly purged his office of republicans, and given that the state legislature is overwhelmingly republican, just how much stroke does he think he has in Austin?

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

I've asked the DA's office that very question (I think you mean county as opposed to city attorney). I will let you know their response.

Mensoph
Mensoph

My how salaries have increased. When I started at the D.A.,s office my beginning salary was 29k

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