DNA evidence manager hired for Dallas County
12:00 AM CDT on Friday, May 25, 2007
By HOLLY YAN / The Dallas Morning News
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins has appointed a new special assistant responsible for overseeing DNA evidence and conviction integrity.
Michael Ware, a Fort Worth lawyer and director of the Innocence Project of Texas at the Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, will be introduced as special assistant today at the law school.
The appointment comes after public criticism of Dallas County's high number of wrongful convictions in recent years. More than a dozen people – most of whom were sentenced for felonies before 1990 – have been freed after modern DNA testing proved their innocence.
Mr. Watkins, who took office in January, has said that correcting wrongful convictions is a priority.
Mr. Ware's "expertise and professional experience are certain to be an asset to our justice system as we focus resources toward making sure we convict people who are indeed guilty of crimes," Mr. Watkins said in a prepared statement. "Equally important is the assurance that innocent people are not wrongfully imprisoned, and having Mr. Ware on board will help us in these critical areas."
Mr. Ware's other duties will include overseeing community prosecution, expunctions, public information, public integrity, evidence destruction, mental health and computer crimes. He also will oversee the appellate division and the federal division.
Earlier this year, the district attorney's office collaborated with the Innocence Project of Texas and worked with volunteer lawyers and law students to review hundreds of cases to determine whether post-conviction DNA tests should be performed.
In 2001, Texas legislators passed a law allowing convicts to apply for DNA testing. Since then, Dallas County has had more exonerations – 13 – than any county in the U.S.
Last month, county commissioners agreed to spend $358,876 for a special prosecutor, a lower-level prosecutor, an investigator and a legal secretary.