Brave Thinkers

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Illustration by Quickhoney

Name: Craig Watkins
Job: Dallas District Attorney
Why he’s brave: He’s championing wrongly convicted prisoners and challenging unreasonable sentences.
Quote: “My job as the criminal district attorney for Dallas County is to seek truth and justice, not to feed the insatiable appetite of those who have political agendas.”


Prosecutors are not typically inclined to free lots of prisoners, especially in Texas. But Watkins, the state’s first black DA, has made a name for himself by crusading to free those who’ve been wrongly convicted—and in Dallas County, long known for its prosecutorial fervor, it turns out there are a lot of them. Watkins created a Conviction Integrity Unit to reassess questionable sentences using DNA testing, and since he came to office, 12 wrongly convicted prisoners have been exonerated, including James Woodard, who unjustly spent 27 years behind bars for the rape and murder of his girlfriend. Woodard is part of a disturbing trend: in the past two decades, 38 people have been exonerated in Texas, more than anywhere else in the country. Watkins clearly enjoys the spotlight—the Discovery Channel is filming his progress—and if more media attention leads to the overturning of more wrongful convictions, so much the better.

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