Saturday, September 13, 2014

Prosecutors withheld evidence in shaky Dallas murder convictions

Two Dallas men convicted of the 1999 murder of a Dallas pastor are seeking to be declared innocent, or at least receive a new trial, "on the basis of new DNA evidence and a trial they say was tainted by false evidence knowingly presented by prosecutors." Reported the Dallas News (Sept. 11), "the two men were convicted on testimony from jailhouse informants and an unrecorded confession."

Whether or not the DNA proves them innocent, it's pretty clear prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence. When the DA gave attorneys with the Innocence Project of Texas and the national Innocence Project their case file:
attorneys found letters from the inmates who had testified that they’d heard the two men admitting the murder.

During their court testimony, the informants said they had not been “promised, sought or expected any personal benefit for their testimony.”

But letters from those inmates found in the file demanded benefits, such as reduced sentences for pending charges, that they “believed they had been promised from the state in direct exchange for testifying.”

“The prosecution not only failed to turn over this material,” the brief said, but concealed it while “insisting” to jurors “that no such discussions with these informants had ever occurred.”

The two jail informants have now told the defense attorneys their testimony was false, the filing says.
The Michael Morton Act passed in 2013 required prosecutors to make such evidence available to the defense before trial, but clearly to deal with older cases there should probably be some sort of post-conviction discovery available in habeas proceedings. If Dallas DA Craig Watkins' office hadn't voluntarily opened up its files in this case, the underlying prosecutorial misconduct would never have been discovered.

It's also worth mentioning that the original case relied heavily on jailhouse informants, but if the case were retried today that testimony would have to be corroborated. Texas law didn't include such a requirement until 2009 when state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa passed a corroboration mandate for jailhouse snitch testimony.


Anonymous said...

Don't expect Watkins to do his job and prosecute the Brady Violator, Rick Jackson. Birds of a feather, and such.

Even though Watkins campaigned on this promise, he has yet to hold a single prosecutor accountable.

And most of the exonerations from Dallas County can be attributed to prosecutorial misconduct. No doubt more will be discovered one Watkins is voted out of office.

TriggerMortis said...

GFB, name the prosecutor(s). Put their names out here so that when anyone conducts an internet search of their names this nasty fact about them pops up. Let this follow them throughout their careers and for the rest of their life. Hell's fire, post their photograph, too.

Anonymous said...

Same problem in the courts of Tarrant County...the judges send in a "visiting" judge who doesn't have to worry about an election to accept the "plea agreement" on cases that aren't properly investigated before defendants are charged and held. This is especially true if the defendant lacks funds to hire an attorney. It's a cesspool over there,,,woe to the individual in the cross hairs of anyone who happens to "know someone" who works in the DA's office, whether an ADA or just a file clerk, justice isn't only blind, but deaf and mute as well!

Anonymous said...

Probably just take a job as prosecutor on some far away island.

Anonymous said...


Rick Jackson was the Prosecutor. But don't worry, he'll never be prosecuted in Dallas County.

Anonymous said...

Prosecution is not the issue here. The more times that shady prosecutors have their names made part of the permanent internet record, the easier it is for some overworked habeas counsel down the road to locate evidence sufficient convince a panel of Republican appointees sitting in New Orleans that the original A.D.A. sat on Brady evidence or lied to the court, counsel, and the jury about his snitch.

Anonymous said...

11:54, thank you, now who was the DA at that time, the arresting officer(s), the detectives that worked the case & the jail house snitch(s)?

More names damn it, full names please.

The DMN rag skipped the most important points, the names of those they were reporting on, as usual.

Good luck getting Watkins to open files that his ADAs worked on.