The victim at the time picked the defendant out of a photo array, but the man had been included only as a result of mistaken identity. Police had mistaken him for the real named suspect identified by a co-defendant, who had the same first and last name. (As an aside: How many of these cases do we have to see before Texas requires improvements in police methods of eyewitness identification?) Even worse, when police discovered their mistake they kept mum. Reported the News:
Evidence that identified James Earl Giles as the true rapist was given to Dallas police before James Curtis Giles' 1983 trial but never disclosed to his trial attorney, a violation of laws requiring exculpatory evidence to be produced.Without DNA evidence to re-test, the truth would never have come out. But it appears today's prosecutors have learned that lesson and figured out a way to avoid that happening. On the DA's user forum, Williamson County DA John Bradley advised a fellow prosecutor that they should seek an agreement to destroy DNA evidence as part of a plea bargain (to life without parole in a capital murder case), so nobody can come along later and prove the defendant didn't do it.
How's that for living up to a prosecutor's oath to "seek justice"?
The law allows plea agreements to waive future DNA testing. Bradley pointed out that, "Innocence, though, has proven to trump most anything." As a result, he said:
A better approach might be to get a written agreement that all the evidence can be destroyed after the conviction and sentence. Then, there is nothing to test or retest. Harris County regularly seeks such agreements.And that's probably why Harris County hasn't seen the number of DNA exonerations as in Dallas - when cases like this involving police or prosecutor misconduct arise and DNA evidence is the only way to prove it, they've already destroyed the potentially exonerating evidence.
That's pretty smart if all prosecutors care about is racking up wins, but it's morally abhorrent for anyone who cares about truth or justice.
BLOGVERSATION: Michael Connelly at Corrections Sentencing protests that my characterization of such plea agreements as morally abhorrent "doesn't even come close to covering it. This is pure CYA and substituting the worst form of human evil for justice." Fine, then. Correction noted.
UPDATE: DAs' reaction and Grits' response.