On Wednesday, DNA testing exonerated Andrew Gossett of Garland, who had been serving a 50-year sentence for a 1999 sexual assault he didn’t commit. Within 24 hours, Gossett was in a courtroom shaking hands with new Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who apologized and told Gossett his office would work on his application for a pardon and monetary compensation. Gossett, 46, walked out a free man.
“The new D.A.’s office gets credit for that,” says attorney Bruce Anton, who handled Gossett’s appeal. He was amazed at how fast his client was released. “Craig Watkins was there to speed up the process. I think the change in command makes all the difference in the world.”
The office under former District Attorney Bill Hill repeatedly fought against post-conviction requests for DNA tests, even if inmates were willing to pay for the tests out of their own pockets.
“The old policy was to oppose it across the board,” says Anton. “If the guy’s arguably innocent, we shouldn’t block the tests.” He felt that Hill’s office was delaying Gossett’s request, first filed about five years ago. “I felt it was the policy to fight everything and concede nothing.”
In other words innocent men, who's justifiable efforts to exonerate themselves were opposed by Republican D.A. Bill Hill for no other reason except simply to oppose them, will now go free. Dallas County voters did that when they voted a Democrat into the D.A.'s office, and it is a result they should be proud of.