February 9, 2018
BIRMINGHAM: And Justice for ALL! Judge Brandon Birmingham, Presides over the 292nd Judicial District Court, and is Presiding Judge of the Felony District Courts in Dallas County. Join him on his Facebook Page – Judge Brandon Birmingham - LIVE every Friday at 5 on for “Fridays in Chambers,” a weekly video summary of what’s happening in the criminal justice system.
Here’s to Johnnie Lindsey and the lessons we learned from the Dallas County Exonerees. Dallas County leads the nation in exonerations. Over 30 innocent men were tried, convicted and sentenced to long terms in prison. One man in particular, Johnnie Lindsey, served over 26 years for a rape DNA evidence later proved he did not commit. I got to meet him a few times and was always struck by his humility and grace. But the fates have conspired against him again. Although he beat cancer once before, it came back with a vengeance, as cancer tends to. He passed away yesterday. I’m going to pray for him and his family, and I hope you will, too. We all strive to leave a legacy, an imprint on the world. Some imprints are bigger than ever, and Mr. Lindsey’s is bigger than most. He is part of a unique group of men, bound together by the criminal justice system’s most heinous crime - an innocent man going to prison. These men, their stories, their courage, their cases have taught us so many valuable lessons. How? Before I became a Judge, I was the Chief of the
By Brandon Birmingham
Cold Case Division at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. I worked with seasoned detectives, investigators and prosecutors on cases like Mr. Lindsey’s. DNA lead to most of these exonerations, providing undeniable scientific proof that a person like Mr. Lindsey did not commit the rape he was accused of. Police, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, advocacy groups, and law professors among others reviewed the processes and evidence in these cases that lead to false convictions, and made significant changes. Systemic changes. Legislative changes. Police protocol changes. Prosecutorial policy changes. Police don’t do lineups the same way the police did in 1981 in Mr. Lindsey’s case, nor do they place the same weight in a positive eyewitness identification they once did. Laws were passed recently requiring biologi-
cal testing before trial. Pre-trial discovery laws have dramatically changed, requiring complete transparency well before the trial. More money is being used for investigators and expert witnesses for the defense. The list goes on. Things are different today. Dramatically different. Not perfect, but markedly improved, and we are working on it. These exonerations shook the Criminal Justice System to it’s very core, and the sys-
temic response has been extraordinary. And that all started right here in Dallas County, with good, courageous men like Johnnie Lindsey.
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