Conviction Integrity Unit founder talked at Stetson Law on Oct. 10 about ethical prosecutions

Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins, founder of the Conviction Integrity Unit, talked with Stetson University College of Law students on Oct. 10 about the importance of just prosecution. Approximately 200 law students gathered to hear Watkins’ talk in the Great Hall on the Gulfport campus.

Dallas D.A. Craig Watkins spoke at Stetson Law on Oct. 10.

Dallas D.A. Craig Watkins spoke to Stetson Law students on Oct. 10.

“You in this room have a responsibility to look at your justice system,” Watkins told the law students. “Think about how you can improve the system and make it work better.”

Watkins’ Conviction Integrity Unit works to exonerate innocent people from prison and to identify previously unknown criminals using DNA and other evidence. Watkins set an example for integrity and professionalism as a prosecutor when he publicly apologized for a wrongful conviction in his own district.

“My job is not to convict, my job is to seek justice,” said Watkins.

He reminded the law students in the audience to make a difference when they enter the legal profession.

“Those innocent people who find themselves on the wrong side of the law who did not commit a crime–your jobs as lawyers are to right those wrongs,” said Watkins.

Watkins’ talk, “The Dallas Conviction Integrity Unit: Prosecutorial Accountability in Action,” was co-sponsored by the Innocence Initiative at Stetson, the American Civil Liberties Union, and supported by the Wm. Reece Smith Jr. Fund.

Students participating in the Innocence Initiative at Stetson work with faculty and pro bono attorneys investigating cases of individuals claiming to be innocent, conduct research on issues related to wrongful convictions, and raise awareness about reforms needed in the criminal legal system.