Statement concerning the TV screening on Investigation Discovery of episode 4 of DALLAS DNA, concerning the case and execution of Gregory Edward Wright in Texas on October 30th 2008
The TV series, Dallas DNA, chronicles a pioneering unit within the Dallas County District Attorney's office where post-conviction DNA testing is being used to clear the innocent, as well as confirm the guilty. Craig Watkins, Dallas County District Attorney, created the nation's first Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) run by a DA's office and tasked it with investigating cases that could be possible examples of injustice. Greg’s was reportedly the first death row case tackled by this new unit, in association with Assistant DA Kim Schaefer, and Craig Watkins himself.
Greg, his attorney Bruce Anton, Greg’s wife, and other members of his family and friends, co-operated with the producers of the film, Touch Productions, in the making of this episode.
May we begin by stating that the TV episode was, in our view, a well produced and tastefully presented snapshot of what went on in those final weeks of our battle to save Greg's life. It related the views of the Dallas District Attorney’s office, and the judgments made as a consequence, and also gave time to Greg and Connie so that viewers could see for themselves the torment and trauma of those terrible proceedings that resulted in Greg’s death. We hoped that viewers (and we think the program went some way towards this) would be enabled, whatever the outcome of those proceedings, to see beyond the abstractions of legal debate to the human cost of this process, and to the often subjective opinion on which vital decisions on life and death are made in Texas and throughout the United States. We are therefore satisfied that the program achieved it’s objectives. It was not a program tasked with coming to a view about innocence or guilt, and neither should viewers expect to be in a position to make that judgment after viewing the program.
However, inevitably, a single one-hour program is unable to cover all aspects of a case, especially not in one so complex as that involving two men on death row for the same crime. We therefore want to spend some time explaining our reaction to some of the issues raised in the program, and to point to additional factors that were not raised. Some of these will be dealt with in more detail in a further statement to be issued later.
The program focused, in good part, on the interpretation of DNA evidence and the retraction of a written confession by John Adams. In both cases, the Unit members, Kim Schaefer, and Judge Francis (the original trial judge) allowed these issues to determine that Greg did not have a sufficient standard of evidence to justify a further Stay of execution. A further Stay was requested so that the information (incomplete) from the DNA testing, and the truth of John Adams, could be more closely examined in the light of additional and related issues that had previously been raised, but might impact on the interpretation given to these results. For reasons that we cannot fathom or appreciate, the Unit, Kim Schaefer, Craig Watkins, and Judge Francis, refused to grant this time, in spite of the closeness of their discovery to the execution. While it may appear that 11 years of appeals is a long time, only in the last weeks of this case did evidence, which at last could give Greg’s defense team a fighting chance to prove innocence, emerge. This arose not because of inefficiency on the part of the defense, but on the late and bitterly contested (in respect of Kim Schaefer) agreement for DNA testing to be granted (at the expense of the defendant and his sponsors) and on the unexpected, multiple, written confession notes made by Adams to Greg’s attorney.
There were several questions that the Unit, Kim Schaefer and Judge Francis chose to ignore, or to give adequate weight. But even so, the program showed clearly, to those with an open mind, that alternative interpretations and judgments might have been made. This was acknowledged by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal in relation to the DNA evidence, which they expressly agreed was inconclusive as to the wearer of the jeans, in their final judgment shortly before Greg was executed. Because Greg couldn't therefore use the DNA evidence as absolute proof of his innocence, and given that the District Court had accepted the retraction of Adams confession, they could not or would not overturn the trial verdict of guilt, or the punishment given. In the end, it came down to whether you believed Greg or you believed Adams. Adams was the one who had a history as a serial criminal, including the use of a knife. Greg had no such history of violence, and indeed until shortly before he found himself homeless, he had a good regular job and career. Adams was the one who had a history of gang membership and violence, Greg had absolutely no such history. The documented measurements taken at the time of his arrest showed conclusively that he could not have worn the jeans at the time of the crime. Similarly documented measurements showed conclusively that Adams could have worn the jeans. For Kim Schaefer to declare conviction that Greg wore the jeans at the time of the crime on the basis of a video impression, over the evidence of physical measurement, was grossly unprofessional. What didn’t emerge in the film, but which fact the prosecution and Judge Francis were well aware, was that the finding of Greg’s DNA on the jeans was NOT unexpected – Greg had never denied that these had been sent to him amongst other clothing by his family, and that he had tried them on for size on more than one occasion. We were told that, as John Adams had always denied wearing them, our burden of proof was that he did. The positive finding of Adams DNA on the jeans exposed that lie, and should have satisfied the burden of proof demanded of Greg.
It was suggested in the episode that Greg and Adams were simply picked up on the day of the crime and invited to Ms Vick’s house for a meal. In fact, Greg had been living at Ms Vicks home by invitation; had helped her around the house and grounds in return; and they had socialized together over a period of time. Greg had been given his own keys both to the house and the Chrysler. It was Greg's suggestion that Adams be invited for a meal on that fateful evening, because Greg had heard of a job at a mobile home center needing two people. He thought Adams would be interested, and intended to make application with Adams the next day. It was the worst judgment he ever made in his life, and it has cost him his own life. This background was brought out, accepted, and even used, cynically, by the prosecution in the original trial, and the program was therefore misleading in not making that clear. At this point, we should put on record what Greg was never allowed to relate, in or to a court of law, on the instruction of successive defense attorneys. Before coming to Dallas, Greg had a successful career driving a truck-trailer rig across the states. A penalty caused a temporary halt to that. He was for a while, on the streets and homeless, At this time however, Greg was tired of the alcohol and drugs, and with the help of Ms Vick, was ready to get his life back on track. In making the arrangement of accommodation with Ms Vick, Greg was removing himself from the streets of Dallas. On the evening Adams was invited back to the house, Ms Vick expressed concern when she saw Adams’ tattoos. She began to pray and speak in tongues which angered Adams. Ms Vick told Adams he would have to find another place to stay; and she wouldn’t let him smoke in the house. Adams wanted to return to Dallas that night but was told no … Ms Vick and Greg were too tired and in no shape to drive. What happened next has been described by Greg himself, in his final statement moments before his death:
“I was in the bathroom when he [Adams] attacked. I am deaf in one ear and I thought the TV was up too loud. I ran into the bedroom. By the time I came in, when I tried to help her with first aid, it was too late. The veins were cut on her throat. He stabbed her in her heart, and that's what killed her. I told John Adams, "turn yourself in or hit the high road." I owed him a favor because he pulled someone off my back. I was in a fight downtown. Two or three days later he turned on me.”
Reference was made to a fingerprint, claimed to have been identified as matched to Greg. Yet even at the last, no acceptable scientific evidence to justify such a claim has ever been tested in a court. The original defending attorneys failed to protect Greg against the “junk science” offered by the state from a retired “expert” – whose judgments have been challenged in other cases in recent times. The state’s own police forensic experts and two defense-hired experts were adamant that no positive ID could be taken from the poor quality print. Although in the program, Kim Schaefer claimed she had further expert testimony available, it was never available for cross-examination and testing in a court of law. The testimony in the original trial amounted to “trust me folks – I can’t justify my conclusion – but I’m the greatest”. Knowing the weakness of that testimony, it was beholden of an honorable District Attorney to subject any new evidence in respect of that fingerprint to a court of law, and preferably to a new jury, since the trial jury members had been heavily influenced in their verdict by misrepresentation of this and other evidence. No reference was made in the program to the fact that vital evidence from the crime scene was collected by Eric Rosenstrom, later to be found to have been employed as a result of fraudulent representation of both qualifications and experience. Worse, Eric Rosenstrom was recently on a “most wanted” list for murder himself. In spite of bringing this information to the attention of the District Attorney and Judge Francis, this matter was never addressed!
We turn now to the written confession by John Adams, and his subsequent retraction of its truth at a hearing called by the Unit and Judge Francis, and shown in the program. We have never seen a more theatrical performance in our lifetime. Having seen that, and seen the text of the confession notes, and heard about the means by which Adams made those confession notes to Greg and to his attorney, we cannot begin to believe that the retraction was anything other than a change of heart upon the realization that his own life depended upon it. The shear nonsense of the story, that he felt sorry for Connie and Greg and wanted to give them more time together, was so pitiful and cruel, that it is very hard to take that an experienced Judge and prosecution service were prepared to accept it. At the very least, it provided by itself such uncertainty, that an execution could not possibly be justified. Adams declared (in so many words) that he “had seen the light and had become a Christian”. Ask the Christians who minister to the prisoners in Polunsky, who they believe was the true Christian. Their witness is that it was Greg. Further, the prosecution denied a deal with Adams at the court, yet while Mike Ware and Craig Watkins may not have spoken with Adams themselves, we know that Kim Schaefer was in and out of the courtroom the entire time it was supposed to be in lockdown.
whether or not you THINK Greg was
guilty, there is NO proof, and ample reason to doubt the interpretation
by the prosecution and the courts. Greg had absolutely no motive for
and in fact everything to lose. He undoubtedly proved reasonable doubt;
believe he proved his innocence too. It seems that is insufficient in a
No person in the United States should face the death penalty either for suspicion of guilt, or for probable innocence. The judgments against Greg have not been based on certainty. In the words of Judge Boyce Martin, Chief Justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, “[The death penalty] is so fundamentally flawed at its very core, that it is beyond repair.” I could quote many others, who have had significant experience of administering the death penalty in Texas, who have made similar statements.
We would advise viewers of the DALLAS DNA program that it is unwise to draw conclusions of innocence or guilt from any TV program, which is necessarily limited in time and resource to be able to reveal all the evidence. We should also note that public reaction we have received to date has been evenly mixed, suggesting that our hope for the program has been achieved. It is now for those responsible for Greg’s wrongful death, to address these and other issues that were not brought out in the program. We will be releasing a further statement in due course that includes those other issues which, taken together with those discussed here, continue to confirm our view of Greg’s total innocence. Our thanks to Touch Productions and Discovery for their contribution to this debate. We regret the Conviction Integrity Unit failed in this test, and Gregory Edward Wright has suffered a terrible and wrongful price.
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