Texas Lawyer names Dallas County DA Craig Watkins “Impact Player of the Year”

watkins.jpgDallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins continues to receive accolades for the fresh approach he has brought to the Frank Crowley Courthouse.  This time he's been recognized by Texas Lawyer as the Impact Player of the Year.

See the Texas Lawyer article here .

Some excerpts from Texas Lawyer's extensive article detailing Watkins' first year on the job: 

  • …Watkins has every intention of breaking with tradition. He is the first African-American elected district attorney in Texas history, the first Democrat elected Dallas County DA in 20 years, and the first Dallas County district attorney who, in less than a year, has radically altered the traditional law-and-order role of the prosecution. 
  • Watkins' focus is as much on preventing crime as it is on prosecuting it. Taking a more holistic approach to his job, he speaks of re-entry programs for ex-inmates and drug treatment programs, as well as garnering the social-service energies of the community to prevent small-time crooks from becoming big-time crooks and to prevent citizens from becoming victims in the first place.
  • Also in January, says (Eric) Mountin, prosecutors found mounted on the walls of their workrooms a large, black-framed blowup of Article 2.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, with only one sentence highlighted: "It shall be the duty of all prosecuting attorneys, including any special prosecutors, not to convict but to see that justice is done." "Every one of the prosecutors that I spoke with was offended by it," Mountin says. "It was clearly an in-your-face message."
  • On Jan. 4, just three days after Watkins took office, he appeared in court to shake the hand of Andrew Gossett, the 11th man in five years to be exonerated in Dallas County through DNA testing. Gossett had been arrested seven years earlier, and Watkins played no role in his conviction or his exoneration, other than to offer an apology for the mistakes of his predecessors. "By apologizing, I was acknowledging that a mistake was made, and I am letting the public know that I am going to do whatever I can to make sure it doesn't happen in the future," Watkins says.
  • Watkins says he is not accusing any one prosecutor. "I am just accusing the conviction-at-any-cost mentality of the office. Let's be honest with each other. Just ask any defense attorney who used to be a prosecutor — they will tell you, that was the tone."

Though his is not a household name (yet), Craig Watkins is one of the most powerful African-American elected officials in the country.   He has shown that his obligation is to upholding the law, and to the just prosecution of Dallas County defendants.  

To say that the majority of the folks in the D.A.'s office supported the other guy in the election is an understatement.  Many of them were at Toby Shook's victory party that was neither a victory or a party.  Can you blame Watkins for wanting to surround himself with people who had his back?

All this and you still bump into the guy at his son's basketball practice, bringing his family to church, and at numerous city & county meetings.  The article also states that Watkins will be featured on 60 minutes early next year.   If Watkins' way -true convictions, holistic crime reduction- proves successful, a model for justice could spread from Dallas County throughout the nation.


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