There were a couple of results from last night that Agitator readers should find encouraging.
The first was the reelection of Dallas County, Texas, District Attorney Craig Watkins. It was close, but it looks like Watkins pulled it out. Watkins is a former defense attorney who in 2006 took over one of the most notoriously ruthless DA offices in the country. He’s also the first African-American DA in Texas history. Watkins set up a special unit within DA’s office whose sole charge was to find innocent people who had been convicted by the prosecutors who previously occupied the office. It’s probably of no coincidence, then, that Dallas County leads every county in the country (and most states) in exonerations. Watson actually had critics, who argued that it wasn’t a prosecutors job to free the wrongly convicted. So it was good to see Dallas voters give him their approval, if only by a slim margin. (Read my interview with Watkins here.)
The other encouraging news from last night is that Colorado voters soundly rejected judges Terence Gilmore and Jolene Blair. Gilmore and Blair were reprimanded by the Colorado Supreme Court in 2008 for withholding exculpatory evidence while they were prosecutors. That withheld evidence helped them convict Timothy Masters of a crime he didn’t commit. While Masters served a decade in prison, Gimore and Blair were promoted to judge. The reprimand and finding that they convicted an innocent man did not preclude them from sitting on the bench, where they presided over criminal cases.
Voters stepped in where the system failed. Masters’ family and supporters started a campaign to get the two removed from the bench. Of the eight judges up for retention in Colorado’s 8th Judicial District, only Blair and Gilmore were rejected, and both were rejected by at least 60 percent of voters. The other six judges were retained with at least 70 percent of the vote. It’s pretty clear that the Masters case is why they lost.
In an age when there’s far too little accountability for misbehaving prosecutors, Gilmore and Blair got some belated comeuppance. More of this, please.