"60 Minutes" Tonight Features Innocence Project and Wrongfully Convicted

Don't miss "60 Minutes" tonight. It features the work of the Innocence Project of Texas, where in Dallas alone, 17 men have been freed after DNA proved them innocent. It includes an interview with several freed inmates, concentrating on James Woodward, freed last week after serving 27 years for a rape and murder he did not commit. The Texas Senate will be holding a summit on the wrongfully convicted on May 8.

Update: This was one of the most moving segments "60 Minutes" has ever done. It ends by telling viewers another 250 cases in Dallas County alone are under investigation. Watch it online if you missed it on TV.

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    Hope he is awarded a ton of bucks (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by athyrio on Sun May 04, 2008 at 06:55:12 PM EST
    for this misdeed....He is truly a man of principle...I deeply respect him...

    I admire you (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Grandmother on Sun May 04, 2008 at 07:06:52 PM EST
    Jeralyn for practicing what I believe is the most difficult area of the law - criminal defense. I know I couldn't do it. All I worry about is whether someone is going to get any money. I don't worry about whether or not my clients are going to be put to death.

    While I have mixed emotions about the death penalty I know many, many people have been wrongly convicted and the Innocence Project is to commended for its work - as you should be.  It takes  a lot of courage not to mention energy to fight the forces that are automatically against you in any case. So here's to the real heroes - those who fight for the truth!

    How do we measure the restitution (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by JavaCityPal on Sun May 04, 2008 at 07:09:30 PM EST
    for having taken so much away from someone?  I have always said the most difficult thing there is in life is having to defend yourself from a lie.

    I had to sit on a jury while I was near the end of my divorce.  Talk about whining, I was the queen. So terrified I would convict an innocent person, I hung the jury and wouldn't budge. My attorney told me that if she were ever accused of something she was innocent of, she would not allow her trial to include a jury.

    What incredible strength and character he shows.

    There's a time to stand for truth even at the cost (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Ellie on Sun May 04, 2008 at 07:15:07 PM EST
    ... of freedom.

    (I hope I quoted that right.) He wouldn't take a plea, didn't change his story for early release, never stopped writing letters.

    What a powerful story.

    I looked up more info on this story at the home page of the Innocence Project. Visitors can donate to this worthy cause online and by mail.

    You have to wonder about a system.. (none / 0) (#10)
    by dianem on Sun May 04, 2008 at 07:56:14 PM EST
    ...that penalizes a person more if they admit they are guilty than if they do not. The system seems to be set up to keep the courts running smoothly and efficiently, not to really determine if a person is guilty of a crime and to punish them fairly if they are. Otherwise, why give people a break if they plead guilty?

    Thank you, jeralyn (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Arabella Trefoil on Sun May 04, 2008 at 07:52:18 PM EST
    The possibility of wrongful conviction is one of the many reasons I oppose the death penalty. Bravo to the Innocence Project. The work they do is not popular. I await the day when we start warehousing people in prisons. We have more jails than any other country in the world.

    Has Obama spoken of this problem? I haven't heard it if he has.

    It's about time!! I have kin in Texas, and (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by FlaDemFem on Sun May 04, 2008 at 07:59:57 PM EST
    they tell me that the justice system there is really screwed up, especially if you are a person of color.

    I would like to know if they are going to look into the 152 people executed during Bush's term as governor. He signed the warrants on the word, and one page summary, of Alberto Gonzales. Is there any law than will hold them accountable if they didn't do their due diligence in reviewing the cases? I have heard horror stories of people being executed when their lawyers fell asleep during the trial, of the mentally handicapped being executed without a qualm after they were unable to assist in their defense, and it goes on and on. Is there a law where Bush and Gonzales can be tried for killing people illegally?

    I am glad they are finally doing something for the people in prison now, and they should. But what about justice for the dead who were killed when they shouldn't have been? Can we make Bush and Gonzales accountable for them??

    Just watched it... (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by Alec82 on Sun May 04, 2008 at 08:23:55 PM EST
    ...in CA.  Very good piece.  

     For people wondering what they can do to correct this horrible injustice, apart from supporting the innocence project, I suggest writing to your local congressional and state representatives, urging them to support a repeal of absolute immunity for prosecutors, particularly those who knowingly withhold exculpatory evidence from defendants.  We should absolutely hold those men and women responsible for their outrageous conduct.  

    My Dad witnessed an execution. (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by caseyOR on Sun May 04, 2008 at 08:40:00 PM EST
    This was in the late 1940s. He was a young newspaper reporter, not long out of the Navy. My hometown paper (in Peoria, IL) sent him to Joliet to cover the execution. It was the electric chair in those days.

    He never forgot it. The experience stayed with him 'till the day he died. I was in high school when he told me about it. He thought he'd seen it all in WWII, but the execution was brutal and horrifying. He, by his own admission, had never given much thought to the death penalty until then. And he kept thinking, as he looked at the man being executed, "What is this guy didn't do it?"

    I quit supporting the death penalty (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by myiq2xu on Sun May 04, 2008 at 08:56:13 PM EST
    after reading about the Innocence Project.

    There have been too many innocent people that were wrongfully convicted.

    With "life without parole" we protect society while leaving open the possibility of new evidence exonerating the innocent.

    The new prosecutor (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by kateNC on Sun May 04, 2008 at 10:40:46 PM EST
    Should be a model for the rest of the country. He has joined forces with The Innocence Project and is looking at back cases. He can do this because they save evidence.

    In NC at least two lawyers who withheld evidence of innocence were promptly promoted to the attorney general's office. Gov. Easley, a good guy in most respects, has only pardoned five or six people in his eight years in office. We've released about twelve people who were wrongfully committed or whose convictions were based on abysmal trials.

    I'm not voting for Moore for governor because he's a former inflexible prosecutor. I'd been favoring him until I found this out.

    Is this a repeat? (none / 0) (#4)
    by facta non verba on Sun May 04, 2008 at 07:12:18 PM EST
    Or did I see the Innocence Project profiled elsewhere?

    Not a repeat (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jeralyn on Sun May 04, 2008 at 07:16:14 PM EST
    It's up to date as of last week.

    Jeralyn I sent you an email on this (none / 0) (#7)
    by Saul on Sun May 04, 2008 at 07:19:39 PM EST

    Thanks for the heads-up Jeralyn (none / 0) (#8)
    by Universal on Sun May 04, 2008 at 07:50:32 PM EST
    I did not have the chance to catch it at the time, but will be looking forward to catching the video of this.

    Paul F. Villarreal


    I'll watch it later too (none / 0) (#13)
    by ruffian on Sun May 04, 2008 at 08:07:10 PM EST
    Wrongful conviction has always held a special place in my little shop of horrors.  Kind of a neurotic obsession of mine.

    I feel better knowing there are people like the Innocence Project, and Jeralyn too of course, doing what they can to right these wrongs.


    The first time I watched Paradise Lost, (none / 0) (#16)
    by mulletov cocktails on Sun May 04, 2008 at 08:49:29 PM EST
    i was a senior in high school.  I really identified with Damien Echols, and it was a real paradigm shift for me.  I came to really understand that tragedies like the West Memphis Three occur much more often than we wish to acknowledge.  

    I am glad that people like Craig Watkins exist.  I loved Watkins almost angry response when asked if, rather than look into old cases, there was a better way to spend the county's monies.


    Thanks for the heads up, Jeralyn! (none / 0) (#12)
    by Tortmaster on Sun May 04, 2008 at 08:00:15 PM EST
    I will have to catch it on-line.

    I would like to know how many people have been freed from death row because of DNA evidence. Then, I would like to see someone get a statistical percentage (compared to the number of people sentenced to death during the same time). How many innocents have been murdered by the government?

    We'll never know, but that statistical percentage might give us an idea.

    The Innocence Project doesn't work on (5.00 / 0) (#18)
    by myiq2xu on Sun May 04, 2008 at 08:59:29 PM EST
    inmates that were already executed.

    In many cases there is no DNA evidence to reevaluate.  It was either destroyed, never collected or didn't exist.

    But given the number of reversals where it did exist, we have to wonder at the cases where it isn't available to test.


    I think... (none / 0) (#19)
    by Alec82 on Sun May 04, 2008 at 09:18:23 PM EST
    ...the focus on death penalty sentences is understandable, but misguided.  There are more important criminal law reform issues, ones that impact far more offenders.

     Don't get me wrong, I am opposed to the death penalty, but there are other areas (mandatory minimums, Brady violations, etc.) that impact far more offenders, and deserve the kind of attention that activists devote to capital punishment.  

    true enough. (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by cpinva on Sun May 04, 2008 at 11:27:52 PM EST
    however, the death penalty is the only one that can't be reversed after the execution. i think that tends to make it the highest priority.

    but hey, i'm just funny that way.


    The local Dallas news broadcast (none / 0) (#20)
    by mulletov cocktails on Sun May 04, 2008 at 10:09:54 PM EST
    just ran a story reporting that Craig Watkins is persuing a change in the law that makes it a crime for a prosecutor to withhold evidence from a defendant's lawyer.

    jeralyn, do you know of any (none / 0) (#21)
    by kangeroo on Sun May 04, 2008 at 10:21:03 PM EST
    stats on the estimated percentages of wrongfully convicted inmates?  i remember hearing a while back some findings from a small sample of case studies where rigorous appellate counsel were assigned and ended up getting nearly all of the subject inmates freed on DNA and/or serious procedural violations.  i can't remember the exact percentages but i know they were staggering.

    That is one of the main reasons (none / 0) (#24)
    by splashy on Sun May 04, 2008 at 11:56:19 PM EST
    I am against the death penalty. You can't un-kill anyone when you find out they are innocent.

    I like to think (none / 0) (#25)
    by kenoshaMarge on Mon May 05, 2008 at 04:02:03 AM EST
    that I am a person of integrity. But I doubt very much that I would have stood firm in my insistence of my innocence as this man did. He is truly a man of integrity and courage.

    Yes, this is one of the many reasons I am against the death penalty.

    My son and I know Dallas County Justice (none / 0) (#26)
    by jrbuffalo on Sat Sep 06, 2008 at 09:48:33 AM EST
    My son was 9 years old when I had a 4 month old die from SIDS in my home daycare. My daycare was closed down overnight without a court hearing. My credit was ruined. After 3 years of fighting I addressed the City of Garland to let them know that my son was not doing well living under the daily stress we were under. One year after that I caved in and accepted a plea, hoping to end the stress on my child. (nearly 4 years after the incident)
    Today, my 17 yr old son is disabled. This is a stress related illness.
    As soon as I accepted a plea, my child and I were made sport of by Dallas and Garland police and their friends. I filed complaint after complaint at Children's Medical Center of Dallas, Equity Residential properties, and the courthouse itself, only to be ignored.
    Then I was arrested on the morning of my birthday in 2006, for operating a website.
    Persons at the hospital and Equity Residential were told this was the result of a drug investigation, therefore I have added the transcript to my website: jackiebuffalo.com, now that I am able to return to the internet.
    Does anyone remember the fake drug scandal in Dallas County a few years back ?
    What we have experienced by the Dallas County Justice System is criminal official misconduct.
    (I was never even arraigned on the charges of injury to a child in connection with this SIDS death; my charges were never explained to me, nor was I ever even told what I did to get those charges)
    As soon as I accepted a plea, for the life of my child, we experienced a form of vigilante gang stalking. This activity stemmed from the prosecutor in Frank Crowley Courthouse, who employed a constable on our apt. property, who in turn used others who were employed on the property  along with firefighter and postal worker friends.
    All of this I was documenting on my website.

    Today my son is disabled. His life has been completely decimated by these events. This has been the way Dallas County has operated for a very, very long time.