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October 14, 2008

Witness Testimony and The Truth Of An Issue.

Prosecutor in one of Dallas County's DNA exonerations no longer supports death penalty.

DallasNews.com
6:02 AM Mon, Oct 13, 2008
Jennifer Emily

James A. Fry, who prosecuted Dallas County exoneree Charles Chatman, said he is "shaken to the core" because of the number of exonerations throughout the country and problems with eye witness testimony.

Once a staunch supporter of capital punishment, Mr. Fry said no longer supports it because of the problems in the criminal justice system highlighted by the exonerations.

"I don't think the system can prove who is guilty and who is innocent," he said in an interview at his office in Sherman where he practices family law.

Mr. Fry prosecuted Mr. Chatman in 1981 for the rape of the exonerated man's former neighbor. Mr. Fry said that at the time, he believed the victim had correctly picked out Mr. Chatman from a photo lineup.

This week, The Dallas Morning News is running stories from its 8-month examination of the county's 19 DNA exonerations that show that eyewitness testimony can be flawed.

Dallas County has had more DNA exonerations than any other local jurisdiction since 2001 when the state began allowing post-conviction DNA testing. Unlike most other counties, Dallas County has preserved decades of evidence.

End story.

This issue is something that has been yelled about for years by people who work in criminal defense. Eyewitness testimony is unbelievably unreliable, especially when you mix that with a very emotional witness.

What's frightening now is, a Dallas County Prosecutor is saying he no longer supports the death penalty. In a state where there is not just the death penalty but, an express line. Makes one stop and think huh?

How does this story affect bigfoot??

In this field of research we have those who will believe whatever they are told then, we have the opposite side of that spectrum, those who listen to nothing a witness has to say and calls everyone a liar, because the information given does not fit their idea of what is believable.

So, the moral of this blog? Take witness statements for what they are, they have the potential to give us information to move forward.

AND,

If you're to harsh on a possible witness, you could be wrong. Even those who are certain of their ability, make big mistakes by assuming they are right.

Does this mean we should never listen to witnesses and stop taking reports?

No. We do need to put these reports into perspective however, and assess them for the information they contain, or do not contain. That's it. Period. We do ourselves a huge disservice however by either taking the information at face value, or assuming we know someone is lieing, when all we have is the information provided in an internet posting.

You're right in thinking DNA and death penalty cases are pretty extreme, because they are.

The premise of the problem is however the same. These Prosecutors I am sure were certain their witnesses were telling the truth. Years (not months) later, a simple test proved those witnesses were wrong. So, while the situations are different, the end result is still the same. Witness testimony is unreliable, when you are looking for the "truth of the matter", but may be helpful in looking for avenues to explore, alternatives or ideas.

Just something to consider and think about.....

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