Saturday, September 12, 2015


District Attorneys Susan Hawk in Dallas and Jana Duty in Williamson County both defeated incumbent DAs with widely reported problems, but both women have since run into troubles of their own.

Duty defeated incumbent DA John Bradley in a GOP primary in 2012, essentially running the long-time prosecutor stalwart out of town. (He's now prosecuting fishing crimes in Palau.) But lately, she appears to be headed down her own dark path. Duty spent time in jail for contempt in August for violating a gag order and last week the same judge ruled she intentionally withheld evidence at a capital murder trial. Reported the Austin Statesman:
Crispin Harmel can face a second trial because Duty did not intend to provoke a mistrial during his first trial, according to a court document filed Friday by District Judge Rick Kennon.

“It is unknown to the court why Ms. Duty intentionally and willfully withheld the means to view time stamps on the Walmart Surveillance video other than from Ms. Duty’s statement that “(defense counsel) acted so horribly to me during the first trial, that I just — I didn’t want to speak to them,’” the court document said.

“The court does not approve of this conduct or the reason for it. However, the court finds no evidence that Ms. Duty intended to goad a mistrial or avoid an acquittal.”

Prosecutors and defense lawyers have been barred from commenting on the case by a gag order.
Defense attorney Kristin Jernigan filed a notice Friday that she plans to appeal Kennon’s decision to the 3rd Court of Appeals. She has previously argued that Harmel could not be tried again because double jeopardy bars a retrial when the prosecutor’s conduct was intentional in provoking the request for a mistrial.
That makes it sound like Duty essentially just threw a snit fit. To intentionally withhold evidence in a capital murder trial because opposing counsel "acted so horribly to me" bespeaks a profound lack of professionalism.

And in Dallas, after ousting Democrat Craig Watkins in the 2014 general election, Republican Susan Hawk revealed that she suffers from major depression and has taken a leave of absence to be hospitalized for treatment which is approaching the two-month mark.

Dallas News political writer Gromer Jeffers had a column recently documenting the details of her undoing - paranoia, fallouts with long-time allies, divorcing her husband just as she took office, and her unexplained absence from the job in August which was ultimately revealed to stem from mental health issues that she concealed from voters during her campaign. Moreover, she "fired or forced the resignation of at least six key employees under controversial circumstances" since she took office in January, some of them close allies.

I've heard attorneys in Dallas openly speculate she may never come back. But unless she resigns, she's there until 2018.

One empathizes with Judge Hawk but the local perception is she lied to voters and going AWOL is a bad look.

Both women are beginning to look like one-termers.


dfisher said...

Any citizen of Dallas CO has the ability to seek the removal of Susan Hawk from office under Chapter 87.001(C) of the TX Local Government Code.

Sec. 87.011. DEFINITIONS. In this subchapter:

(1) "District attorney" includes a criminal district attorney.

(2) "Incompetency" means:

(A) gross ignorance of official duties;

(B) gross carelessness in the discharge of those duties; or

(C) unfitness or inability to promptly and properly discharge official duties because of a serious physical or mental defect that did not exist at the time of the officer's election.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

FWIW David, her depression problems reportedly existed at the time of Hawk's election. She'd been treated during the campaign but didn't reveal the problem until after she was in office.

gravyrug said...

I guess it's up to the courts to figure out how much worse a condition has to get before it counts as a new problem. I hate it for her that she's dealing with this, but it's not fair to those who voted for her to continue not doing her job.

Anonymous said...

Item (B) gross carelessness in the discharge of those duties would seem to apply to Jana Duty.

dfisher said...


I believe the courts would hold Section (C) deals with disclosed issues known to the voters who elected the county officials. If that were not the case then, alcohol abuse would defeat both the Gov. Code and the TX Constitution Art. V, sec. 24. The CO official would simply say they have been an alcoholic since before the last time they were elected.

Anonymous said...

Hawk is a Republican in a county where Republicans always lose.

The rest is window dressing.