New Mexico exoneration unit sparks discussion on Texas justice s - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

New Mexico exoneration unit sparks discussion on Texas justice system

New Mexico exoneration unit sparks discussion on Texas justice system

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According to Amarillo criminal defense attorney, Jeff Blackburn, there have been 47 exonerations in Texas so far this year. That means nearly 50 innocent people were wrongfully convicted before being set free.

"We actually don't have a criminal justice system in Texas," said Blackburn. "We have 254 of criminal justice systems because that's how many counties we have."

In the state of Texas, wrongful convictions or exonerations aren't overseen by the Attorney General's office. Instead, District Attorney's are left to police themselves.

"I can't speak for other jurisdictions but I can sure speak for Amarillo and we try very diligently and I think the law enforcement too, to get it right," said Potter County District Attorney Randall Sims. "When done right, the criminal justice system is a checks and balances system all the way through."

But with no larger agency overseeing those efforts, critics say the system is faulty.

"We don't have anything even remotely close to a fair system with real checks and balances," added Blackburn. "We've got at least 75 to 100 cases that I know if we had the resources and time and energy, we could get these guys out."

However, Sims said even without a larger exoneration unit, they're doing their job right.

"We can't think of a single case where someone has been exonerated because of actual innocence," said Sims.

But folks like Blackburn still believe there's an ever larger problem at stake.

"The point is not really which individual defendant you can help," Blackburn said. "The point is, how about all the rest of us because the truth is that when you have a non functioning criminal justice system, then that hurts everybody."

Sims also says if there is ever any question about a case or possible wrongful conviction, he himself and his office will investigate to make sure the conviction is just.