We recognized him for his brave step to use DNA evidence to ensure that the criminals in the county's custody were rightfully behind bars. Since Watkins began reviewing case files in spring 2007, Dallas County has freed or exonerated 10 inmates who had been wrongfully imprisoned.
Interesting, right? Well, the Discovery Channel thinks so. Investigation Discovery, one of the cable network's new channels, is launching a reality TV show that focuses on Watkins' work.
Dallas DNA will follow prisoners as they go through the exoneration process. The first episode features the September exoneration of Johnnie Lindsey, 56, who was convicted in a 1981 rape case and spent 26 years in prison, according to USA Today.
Some legal analysts say the series could exploit
the suffering of victims -- including the wrongly convicted -- in the
name of entertainment.
"I'd find that very troubling," says Rob Warden,
executive director of Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful
Convictions. "I wholeheartedly favor calling attention to the innocence
movement, and I'm delighted with what Craig Watkins has done while in
office, but there are ethical obstacles that have to be negotiated very
Jeff Blackburn, chief counsel to the Innocence Project of Texas, says the show is a vehicle to boost Watkins' political career.
Watkins denies that the series poses ethical risks or that he was
motivated by politics. He says the public needs to see how the process
works. "At the end of the day, it will build better trust," he says.
If you just can't wait to watch Watkins on TV, you can tide yourself over with this video of him accepting his Public Official of the Year award in D.C. in November:
Zach Patton -- Executive Editor. Zach has written about a range of topics, including social policy issues and urban planning and design. Originally from Tennessee, he joined GOVERNING as a staff writer in 2004. He received the 2011 Jesse H. Neal Award for Outstanding Journalism
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Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.