The following is from the April 27, 2008, edition of The Dallas Morning News. Fred Moss, a law professor at SMU, provided expertise for this story.
By JENNIFER EMILY and STEVE McGONIGLE
The Dallas Morning News
For 16 wrongly convicted defendants in Dallas County, DNA testing was the key that set them free after years – even decades – in prison.
Now, because of the doubt those exonerations raised, Dallas prosecutors are taking an unprecedented look at convictions in which DNA evidence cannot conclusively prove guilt or innocence.
And that may lead to a significant departure from the way prosecutors traditionally have responded to claims of innocence by inmates.
DNA cases "are the very tiniest tip of a gigantic iceberg of injustice in Texas," said Jeff Blackburn, an Amarillo civil rights attorney who also serves as chief counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas.
The decision to pursue non-DNA cases broadens a review of convictions begun a year ago by Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins and the Innocence Project of Texas amid a wave of DNA exonerations.
Fred Moss, a law professor at Southern Methodist University and a former federal prosecutor, said the effects of Mr. Watkins' work with the nonprofit legal clinic could ripple through courthouses across the state.
By letting defense advocates search for misfires in the judicial system, Mr. Moss said, Mr. Watkins has opened a Pandora's box.
"And now," he said, "it's 'Oh, my God.' "
Other prosecutors, he said, could feel pressure to review old cases, and further revelations could add to public skepticism of the justice system.
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