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Prosecutors at Dallas County DA Office Reflect on Exoneration

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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In the wake of exonerations for 17 men in Dallas County, released after DNA evidence revealed they were innocent of the crimes they had been convicted of and were serving time for, Texas Lawyer tracked down some of the prosecutors involved in Witnesses to the Prosecution: Current and Former ADAs Who Helped Convict Exonerated Men Reflect.

Some of the lawyers don’t remember details of the cases they tried years ago. But others remember them like the cases happened yesterday. One was even driven to tears when recalling the trial of a man she helped send to prison for 15 years who has since been pardoned.

Most of the 17 cases are strikingly similar — a victim of a sexual assault positively identified her attacker in a photo lineup or in court, testimony that was nearly impossible to contradict at the time because of the limitations of forensic science. In the early 1980s DNA testing was not available. And while DNA testing was used in the 1990s it became even more sophisticated a decade later. In each of the 17 cases, it was DNA evidence that helped set the men free after years of wrongful incarceration.

“In the criminal justice system, people are being convicted on one-witness cases. And what this says to me is we’ve got an inherent problem about how many of these cases we’re getting wrong. And it’s still going on today,” says James Fry, a former Dallas prosecutor who helped send a man to prison for 27 years for a crime he didn’t commit. “My question to everybody involved in this across the state and across the nation is what are we going to do about this? I don’t know.”

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