Opinion Blog: Wrongful Convictions are State’s Responsibility

May 11, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

posted by Nicolle Keogh
nkeogh@smu.edu

What could be more wrong than sentencing an innocent person to jail –or death row for the matter? If the idea of being locked up and awaiting your execution date as an innocent person doesn’t make you sick enough, then good luck wrapping your head around this: many of these exonerated convicts are denied compensation for their time behind bars.

In the last decade, the number of exonerations has skyrocketed, mostly due to advances in DNA testing, which has exonerated 203 people n the last decade. Though this should be exhilarating news, the fact is that many states claim they cannot meet the budget for compensating the rapid increase of the wrongfully incarcerated.

Twenty-seven states offer financial compensation to exonerated convicts, there’s no excuse why the 23 other states aren’t following suit. I understand that each state has a different budget. However I think this issue should be a priority in every state, especially when most wrongful convictions are based on faulty eyewitness testimony.

Even the states that do compensate for wrongful convictions are insufficient.

So here’s my proposal: individual states that have lotteries either donate the government’s portion of lottery money to the compensation of the wrongfully accused, or create a new lottery for that specific purpose. A lot of publicity and marketing would have to go into this scheme in order to prompt people to buy their tickets, but I think many would be enthusiastic about purchasing a ticket for this cause.

How can anyone say it’s not in the state’s budget to financially compensate people who have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to years in prison? It’s going to take a little creativity to find a way to scrounge up some extra money, but allowing this to go on any longer is inhumane and simply unacceptable.

Dallas County District Attorney Speaks at SMU

February 24, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Bridget Bennett
brekow@smu.edu

Dallas County District Attorney Speaks at SMU from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins spoke at an SMU Faculty Club luncheon Wednesday. Watkins, a Dallas native, is serving his second term as the first African American District Attorney in Texas. He has partnered with the Innocence Project of Texas to exonerate the wrongfully convicted in Dallas County.

Watkins’ spoke about these exonerations, touching on the role media played in raising awareness. Watkins said wrongful convictions are deplorable for the pain they cause those who have been wrongfully imprisoned. But the involvement does not stop there, Watkins said.

“When we make a mistake, when someone has been convicted for something they didn’t do. Inevitably, the individual that did do it continues to commit crimes,” Watkins said.

The majority of people who are in jail, Watkins said, are addicted to some illegal substance, uneducated, or without a skill set. Watkins expressed the importance of rehabilitation programs to prevent future prosecutions. He also talked about the ratio of taxpayer money spent on one inmate in a prison versus the amount money spent on his education before he committed that crime. The latter had far less invested.

Equality and trust in the criminal justice system also came up in the speech. Watkins said that citizens do the sentencing during jury duty and need to take their job seriously for the justice system to properly function.

Referring to SMU, Watkins said students are the future of change for this country. He charged the faculty with the important role of teaching students to be involved in government and politics, but to also have the courage to stand up for what is right.