Brave Thinkers

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.

Presented by

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Dravet Syndrome is a severe form of epilepsy that affects children. Could marijuana oils alleviate their seizures?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Inside a family's fight to use marijuana oils to treat epilepsy

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

More in National

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In