Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tuesday night’s premiere of Dallas DNA re: Craig Watkins sets impressive tone
Although Watkins barely makes a cameo appearance.
Dallas DNA, the documentary series about Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins and his Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU), had its premiere Tuesday night on the Investigative Discovery channel, and proved to be a spiffy, subtly-rendered show that whets the appetite for the remaining five episodes.
Watkins himself makes barely a cameo. The star is public defender Michelle Moore, who shepherds two cases. One is proven innocent, while the other's guilt is confirmed.
The CIU is the division established by Watkins that's using DNA tests to exonerate prisoners who were innocent. The testing isn't a casual process; the procedure costs $5,000 and requires months of work on the part of Moore and the DA's office.
The expense seems worthwhile in the case of Johnnie Lindsey, who's been in jail for 26 years for aggravated sexual assault. He's found to be innocent, and it's a big emotional payoff when the judge apologizes to him for what he's been through. He reunites with the remaining members of his family -- a cousin who allows him to live at her house while he's reacclimating to the world, a 31-year-old son he hardly knows, an ex-girlfriend with whom he reunites.
But in the case of Rocky Morris, imprisoned for raping his girlfriend's daughter, the DNA test reveals that the semen was his. In disturbingly graphic detail, he tries to convince the judge that he didn't do the rape ("I didn't touch her boobs"), but she cuts him off and sends him back to prison. You want to strangle the guy but Moore suppresses her frustration over wasting time and money on his case.
The show was commendable because it didn't have a cheesy, melodramatic tone but instead was informative and rational, which isn't what you expect from a reality show.