A Nice Meal's Nice, But, C'mon
Shortly before Charles Chatman was freed from prison last week, after becoming the 15th Dallas County man exonerated by DNA evidence since 2001, State District Court Judge John Creuzot treated him to a T-bone steak -- after teaching Chatman how to use the knife he'd been denied in prison. In an editorial this morning, The New York Times calls Creuzot's gesture "heartening" -- especially because "this happened in Texas, famous for its draconian criminal punishments." But, of course, The Times says a good meal ain't enough:
While DNA evidence has captured the popular imagination, Mr. Chatman’s story -- and that of many postconviction exonerations -- is also in large part about eyewitness misidentification, the most common factor in wrongful convictions. The Innocence Project has proposed some important reforms that states should use in upgrading their criminal justice system. These include improvements in the use of eyewitness testimony and electronic recording of interrogations.
Of course, as we noted last month, the Dallas County District Attorney's Office and the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute are set to partner on a project that looks at how witnesses eyeball suspects. And I would direct you to this cover story from the paper version of Unfair Park from last August. --Robert Wilonsky