First George W. Bush. Now this? Do Texans realize they have become the laughing stock of the thinking world?
Charles Chatman said throughout his 26 years in prison that he never raped the woman who lived five houses down from him.
Now 47, Chatman is expected to win his freedom Thursday on the basis of new DNA testing that lawyers say proves his innocence and adds to Dallas County’s nationally unmatched number of wrongfully convicted inmates.
The imminent exoneration is not the story here. That news is happening almost daily, thanks to the science and technology created by DNA research. The story is in the incidental information that this is the 15th case from Dallas county, in the last 6 years alone, that someone has been cleared of a crime he or she was previously convicted of, based on analysis of DNA evidence.
Texas leads the country in prisoners freed by DNA testing. Including Chatman, the state will have released at least 30 wrongfully convicted inmates since 2001, according to the Innocence Project.
Mike Ware, who heads the Conviction Integrity Unit in the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, said he expects that number to increase.
Now, to give some credit where credit is due, it turns out that the crime lab used by Dallas County retains the evidence, making it possible to go back many years in order to analyze those susceptible to DNA testing. So statistically, Dallas County should have a higher exoneration rate, compared to counties that don’t retain such evidence. But…
District Attorney Craig Watkins also attributes the exonerations to a past culture of overly aggressive prosecutors seeking convictions at any cost.
So all that statistic does is tell us that Dallas Country makes it easier to correct a miscarriage of justice. But the miscarriage has to occur first.
Lets not forget that the state leads the nation in executions and evangelists, also.
And what good story doesn’t have a touch of irony?
Chatman, who was convicted in 1981 and sentenced to life in prison, said his faith kept him from giving up.
Yes, his god had a plan for him. His plan entailed having a neighbor mis-identify him so he could spend the better part of his young adulthood in prison, so that he would have the distinction of being the longest serving inmate in Texas to be exonerated by DNA evidence.
What an honor! What a plan!