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DA Watch: “Dallas DNA” starring new reality TV star DA Craig Watkins debuts April 26

The Discovery Channel will offer you another reality-TV option later this month, just in case you don’t have enough reality-TV options to choose from already: on April 26, “Dallas DNA” makes its first appearance, telling the story of Johnnie Lindsay (see our post on 09/26/08).

Investigation Discovery, a part of the Discovery Channel, is focusing upon the efforts of the Innocence Project in Dallas County because our local county has had more exonerations than any other county in the country. Surprise.

The show will follow the efforts of those seeking to use DNA testing to prove the innocence of men and women wrongfully convicted. Like Johnnie Lindsay.

It is not, however, a documentary. It is an entertainment show, and makes no efforts to claim otherwise.

“Dallas DNA” stars Dallas DA Craig Watkins

DA Craig Watkins will appear in the show. It’s a given, since he’s been involved in the exoneration of ten men in the past two years. Watkins says the show is a good thing, telling the media it will help to “make justice better by showing the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

Many are concerned about the ethics of this reality-TV show

Not everyone is happy about this new summer series. Some pretty big players have taken a stand against it.

Rob Warren, the executive director of the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University has been quoted in USA Today as having misgivings about “Dallas DNA,” saying he finds the show “troubling” and he is quoted by Entertainment Weekly as saying that he’s concerned the show will “exploit the suffering of victims – including the wrongfully convicted – in the name of entertainment. “

Jeff Blackburn, the chief lawyer for the Innocence Project of Texas, has just come right out and said that this television show is a blatant vehicle to boost Craig Watkins’ political career. Blackburn has also reported that the Innocence Project was contacted about doing a show focusing upon its efforts, but they couldn’t reach an agreement because they were going to have to “stage things” and the Innocence Project couldn’t agree to that.

What does Watkins say in response? According to USA Today, his response is that his critics are unhappy because they couldn’t make their own media deal. According to Watkins, it’s all sour grapes.

Sour grapes? Really?

Reality television isn’t real, we all know that it’s staged and manufactured for entertainment purposes.

Many also recognize that reality television is more profitable than other forms of entertainment, because it avoids the costs of employing lots of creative folk — like writers for scripts — that more traditional shows require. In fact, reality-TV can thank rising writers’ salary demands as well as things like the recent writers’ strike for its upsurge in popularity today.

So, when revered organizations say no to reality television because they don’t want to be … well … phony with things being staged by Hollywood money, while others think this is just fine to do…. Well, doesn’t sound like sour grapes to some.

Sounds like it’s something else entirely, doesn’t it? And, people can get hurt here.

Let’s Hope Nothing Bad Happens Here

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Let’s hope no privilege is violated, no due process is harmed, no exploitation of innocent people happens here, in all this Hollywood production zeal. Let’s hope.

Because the only one apparently double-checking to insure that everything’s going along according to the Law is DA Watkins. He’s supposed to be insuring that privilege is protected, etc. Not a defense attorney, nope. The lead prosecutor.

Sure, there’s nothing but sour grapes in the ethical concerns voiced by people like Blackburn. Right.


USA Today

Entertainment Weekly

Investigation Discovery – Dallas DNA

Wikipedia – Reality Television

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