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TEXAS (USA): DISTRICT ATTORNEY CALLS FOR A REVIEW OF THE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT SYSTEM

February 23, 2012: In Texas, Dallas County's District Attorney, Craig Watkins, 44, black, is calling for a review of the capital punishment system. Now, as Watkins publicly acknowledges that his great-grandfather was executed in Texas almost 80 years ago, he called on state lawmakers to review death penalty procedures to ensure the punishment is fairly administered.
"I think it's a legitimate question to have, to ask: `Have we executed someone that didn't commit the crime?'" Watkins said in an interview with The Associated Press. After becoming district attorney in 2007, Watkins started a conviction integrity unit that has examined convictions and, in some cases, pushed for them to be overturned.
Dallas County has exonerated 22 people through DNA evidence since 2001 – by far the most of any Texas county and more than all but two states. An additional five people have been exonerated outside of DNA testing. Most of those exonerations occurred during Watkins' tenure. "I think the reforms we've made in our criminal justice system are better than any other state in this country," Watkins said. "But we still need reforms. And so, I don't know if I'm the voice for that. I just know, here I am, and I have these experiences." Among those experiences was hearing about the execution of his great-grandfather, Richard Johnson.
According to state criminal records and news accounts, Johnson escaped from prison three times while serving a 35-year sentence for burglary, and he was charged with killing a man after his third escape. He was convicted of murder in October 1931 and executed in the electric chair in August 1932. Watkins said he did not get a full explanation of what happened until he became district attorney. His grandmother, who was a young girl when her father was executed, still struggles with the story.
Watkins says he opposes the death penalty on moral grounds but doesn't want those beliefs "pushed upon someone else."
He has sought the death penalty at trial in nine cases, with eight death sentences received.
While Watkins doesn't take a position on his great-grandfather's guilt, he said hearing about the incident made him think harder about whether defendants, particularly African-Americans, are being treated fairly by the courts.
Watkins, the first African-American district attorney in Texas, said he remains troubled by allegations that faulty evidence and prosecutorial misconduct were used to secure convictions. Watkins did not offer specific proposals for changes or suggest halting executions, but he said he wanted state lawmakers to take a look at how the death penalty is handled in counties.
The latest wrongfully convicted man to be exonerated in Dallas County, Richard Miles, was formally declared innocent Wednesday by a judge.
Miles was released from prison in 2009, 15 years after a jury convicted him of murder and sentenced him to 40 years in prison.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last week declared that his case was one of actual innocence. Craig Watkins was elected District Attorney of Dallas County in November 2006. Under Watkins’ leadership, the Dallas County D.A.’s office has achieved a 99.4% conviction rate, and has focused on protecting the most vulnerable by locking up sex offenders and child predators. His Conviction Integrity Unit has reviewed more than 300 cases and helped free 25 wrongly convicted inmates. Watkins has received numerous awards for his Conviction Integrity Unit. (Source: Associated Press, 23/02/2012)

PAKISTAN: MAN AWARDED DEATH SENTENCE
INDIA: SC UPHOLDS DEATH FOR CHILD RAPIST AND MURDERER
ARIZONA (USA): 1ST EXECUTION THIS YEAR IN THE STATE
TEXAS (USA): GEORGE RIVAS EXECUTED
INDIA: SC SAVES MAN WHO MURDERED WIFE, 3 KIDS FROM THE GALLOWS
SAUDI ARABIA: SAUDI MAN FACES EXECUTION IN MAID KILLINGS
MALAYSIA: TWO FRIENDS RECEIVE DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING
MALAYSIA: THAI DRUG TRAFFICKER TO HANG
SAUDI ARABIA: CONVICT PARDONED MOMENTS BEFORE BEHEADING
MALAYSIA: SENIOR CITIZEN TO HANG FOR MURDERING FORMER WIFE
IRAN PUTS OFF EXECUTION OF CHRISTIAN PASTOR
NIGERIA: I WON’T SIGN DEATH WARRANTS – UDUAGHAN
MALAYSIA: NIGERIAN SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR DRUG TRAFFICKING
SRI LANKA: TWO MEN SENTENCED TO DEATH
TEXAS (USA): LETHAL INJECTION COSTS INCREASING
MALAYSIA: THAI CADDY GETS DEATH FOR TRAFFICKING
SOUTH KOREA: ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE PASSES RESOLUTION AGAINST CHINA'S REPATRIATION OF NORTH KOREAN DEFECTORS
LEBANON: 3 LEBANESE SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR SPYING FOR ISRAEL
CHINA MULLS DEATH PENALTY FOR ‘GUTTER OIL’ CRIMES
'EXTRADITE BOTSWANA FUGITIVE'
CHINA: TRIO WHO DEALT DRUGS GIVEN DEATH SENTENCES
SOUTH DAKOTA (USA): LEGISLATURE PASSES LIMIT ON INMATE APPEALS
TUNISIA: FIRST DEATH SENTENCING SINCE REVOLUTION IN MANOUBA MURDER CASE
AFGHANISTAN: MURDER CRIMINAL IN BAGHLAN PROVINCE SENTENCED TO DEATH
UAE: DEATH SENTENCE FOR HUSBAND WHO KILLED PROSTITUTE
IRAQ: DEATH SENTENCE FOR BAGHDAD BOMBERS
IRAQ'S 2012 EXECUTIONS TOP 2011'S NUMBER
JAPAN: SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS DEATH PENALTY AFTER CAMPAIGN
KUWAIT: COUPLE SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR KILLING FILIPINA HOUSEMAID
IRAN: TWO MEN HANGED IN MAZANDARAN

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IRAN. HANDS OFF CAIN, REDUCTION OF DRUG EXECUTIONS BUT NUMBERS REMAIN WORRISOME
  HUMAN RIGHTS: DEMONSTRATION OF THE RADICAL PARTY BEFORE IRANIAN EMBASSY 14 FEBRUARY  
  BELARUS EXECUTES TWO CONVICTED MURDERERS  
  MALAYSIA: GOVT HALTS EXECUTION OF 1,200 DEATH ROW INMATES  
  JAPAN HANGS CULT LEADER SHOKO ASAHARA, 6 OTHERS FOR 1995 TOKYO SUBWAY SARIN ATTACK  
  SOMALIA - DEATH PENALTY AND TERRORISM  
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