History of Collin County DA intern serves as lesson for prosecutors

Intern Teaches Collin Co Prosecutors

News 8 was invited to be there as a group of young Collin County prosecutors learned that the intern they'd seen in the office daily had a surprising history.

It was a lesson about seeking justice, not just convictions. In the audience was Olivia Lord, someone the young Collin County prosecutors thought they knew well. 

"No one gets in this business to put an innocent person in jail or prison right?" veteran prosecutor Bill Wirskye asked a group of about 15 misdemeanor prosecutors. "The boss wants you to put a human face on a mistake."

Lord was wrongfully accused of murder six years ago in Dallas County.

Dallas police said Lord killed her fiance. But it turned out, he had actually killed himself. She was cleared by a grand jury and later won a lawsuit against the city of Dallas.

"You do not want to be remembered as prosecutors that sent an innocent person to prison," Lord told them.

The young prosecutors thanked her for sharing her story.

“I feel like I'm meeting you again for the first time,” one told Lord.

It's believed to be the first time that someone wrongfully accused of murder has interned in a DA's office.

Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis wanted Lord to see there are good people in the system, as imperfect as it is. He wanted his prosecutors to actually meet someone who had been wrongfully accused.

“I wanted my own prosecutors and investigators to understand that even though we work in the best system in the world that mistakes can happen and sometimes mistakes do happen and those mistakes can have a very human face,” Willis said.

Willis was impressed with Lord’s “grace and poise” after being accused of something so awful.

“I think it if that had happened to me, I would probably be a very bitter person, but I don't sense that from Olivia,” he said.

Lord told News 8 the false allegation forever changed her life. It still causes her pain.

“The accusation just doesn't go away with time,” she said. “I don't think it's something that you ever fully recover from it. It's an unrecoverable accusation.”

Lord says she came away from her time at the DA's office with more respect for the job prosecutors do. Her message to the young prosecutors is that “wrongful convictions do happen, but that they’re preventable.”

Lord is finishing up her undergraduate degree.

She now plans to go to law school and perhaps to become a prosecutor. She wants to do her part to seek justice.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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