Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DA's Race Shows Fundamental Difference In Philosophies

Incumbent says business as usual is good enough; challenger differs, proposes action

Waco – Challenger Abel Reyna differed sharply with Criminal District Attorney John Segrest in a candidate's forum at the West Waco Public Library.

In a campaign appearance before a standing room only crowd of almost 100 packed into a sweltering meeting room, the two gave crime and punishment a thorough airing while an additional 50 waited outside in the lobby.

The entire staff of assistant prosecutors occupied the chairs on one side of the room as the moderator, Dr. Karla Leeper of Baylor University's president's staff, steered the discussion and rebuttal in the forum, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Prosecution of about half the crimes referred to his office is a basic reality of the situation when it comes to prosecuting felony crimes, said Mr. Segrest.

Asked by a man in the crowd what ratio of crimes should be pursued, he replied,“There is no way that our system can follow every case...Our police officers make arrests based upon probable cause - for the safety of the public.”

An incumbent since 1981, he is the longest-serving District Attorney in the history of McLenna County.

In his rebuttal to the question, Mr. Reyna said “It ain't acceptable to me...That is a coin flip as to whether the offender sees the inside of a courtroom, or not. It ain't working. This ain't a coin flip.”

A Republican, he has been endorsed by two major organizations of police and corrections officers, McLennan County and Waco, as well as the Combined Law Enforcement Association, which normally does not endorse candidates.

“They aren't endorsing anyone,” said Mr. Segrest. He pointed out that those associations have no bargaining power to negotiate on behalf of their members with the county and city officials who supervise them.

The face of crime is changing, said Mr. Reyna.

“What we see now is that criminals are becoming more aggressive and more violent.” He explained that law breakers commit multiple and serial offenses in crimes against property and persons alike. “The prosecutor should be not just react, but be proactive.”

Mr. Segrest countered his argument that Waco moved from the seventh most dangerous city in the state to the fifth, saying that the crime rate, according to the FBI, has dropped for the second year in a row.

He argued that the figures Mr. Reyna cited came from a popular law enforcement magazine. “There is no way you can make those calculations,” he said, based on the information presented.

“Besides, it's not the fault of my staff or myself.”

He is a family man, according to his campaign literature. Father of three, he has many grandchildren and treasures his family.

In reply to a question from a single parent mother in the audience, Mr. Reyna said, “That has no bearing on standing toe to toe with the thugs who break the law.” He said he is hoping to soon be father, then, embarrassed, caused a wave of titters from the females in the house when said, “Well, I, you know, I don't want to give away any, uh. You know...”

The talk turned sharp and hot when it came to two cases that cost lives.

Said Mr. Reyna regarding an plea bargain offer of deferred adjudication to a blind woman whose driving caused the death of a motorcyclist when she didn't see him, he said “It's unacceptable. What did the jurors give her? They gave her a 12-year sentence in the penitentiary.”

“Letting a man out of jail on a simple assault when he was charged with a felony aggravated assault and letting him go to Dallas and kill two women is unacceptable.” He was speaking of the case of Keith Hill, who went on to murder his wife and his mother-in-law at Dallas after an assistant District Attorney agreed to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor and a suspension of a year's sentence.

“People are sitting in jail and a case is dismissed,” said Mr. Reyna, referring to a common problem. Prosecutors often have to make a decision to decline prosecution due to a lack of evidence or witnesses to offer testimony.

His face by turns displaying amazement, then anger, then triumph as he jotted a note to rebut the logic of the challenger, Mr. Segrest said, “We do more than prosecute cases...Every crime is screened before it comes to court.”

“Mr. Reyna has never prosecuted a case; he has only defended criminals,” he said.

Mr. Reyna replied that he has nevertheless prosecuted the cases in his 13 years of experience in the criminal defense bar. He presentation of exculpatory evidence discovered during his investigations amounts to a prosecution of the case, he told his listeners. Preservation of the evidence, be it incriminating or exculpatory, is just as much a part of prosecution of a case as anything else, he explained.

He called for more than just a higher ratio of crimes to be prosecuted in court. He said he wants to base his attack on crime on a three-part program of a greater presence in the office, in the courtroom and in the community.

“There are some people who just need to see the District Attorney sitting on the other side of the table,” he concluded. People need to be able to match a face and a reputation with the consequences of breaking the law.

“I remember getting a drink of water,” he said, recalling a day in a supermarket near his home when he was still just a kid. “I looked up and on the wall there was a sign that said 'People who write hot checks will be prosecuted – Felipe Reyna, District Attorney'. Felipe Reyna is my father.”

If elected, he wants to get out in the community, into the schools, and explain the consequences of a day in court to kids before they make that first mistake.

In the end, after their closing statements, the two criminal attorneys embraced, abrazo y abrazo.

1 comment:

  1. Visitors Beware!

    Do NOT even visit Washoe County, Nevada, the north side, Nevada side, of Lake Tahoe. Their District Attorney, DA Dick Gammick, arrogantly boasts publicly more than once that a guilty conviction is better than sex for him.

    That means there is a bias for you being guilty anytime you're in Washoe County, Nevada.

    That means there is an illegal bias for your son, daughter, spouse, mama, papa, grandpa, grandma and on being illegally found guilty anytime they're visiting Washoe County, Nevada.

    Do NOT go to Washoe County Nevada for you are illegally presumed guilty. That is a Due Process violation, civil rights violations.

    Plus the Washoe County District Attorney, DA Dick Gammick cheated and lied to STEAL the election.