New Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson ready for challenge of job

Faith Johnson was among the first people at the Frank Crowley Courthouse on Tuesday -- a plan to lead by example.

Johnson has taken over the embattled Dallas County District Attorney’s office after being appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott. It’s a place where simply showing up and meeting people earns her points among prosecutors.

“One had been here 10 years, one had been here 9 years. Each of them said to me that they had never met their DA,” Johnson said. “They had never met Craig Watkins, they had never met Susan Hawk. They were just amazed that I would have a face to face with them.”

Johnson, 66, is a former prosecutor who later served as a felony court judge for 17 years. As she connects with staff, she knows equally important is her relationship with the public.

“I'm quite certain people have a wait and see attitude,” Johnson said.

Johnson plans to strengthen satellite offices, making it easier to file cases. She also wants to beef up the Conviction Integrity Unit, which has had high profile DNA exonerations. But she acknowledges there are fewer of those DNA-based cases.

“We are very close to at least 2 or 3 cases we are looking at to say should this person be exonerated. So we are working hard on that, and it's not involving DNA,” Johnson said.

Johnson, the youngest of 13 kids, studied psychology in college. Her work as a drug counselor led her into the courtroom.               

“I was going down there boldly telling the judge, no, don’t send Suzie to prison, give her to me, we can change her life.

In a long career, one misstep came as judge -- throwing a courtroom party when an on-the-run defendant was caught.

“When I say to you that I'm trust worthy, I'm honest, I believe that I have high integrity. That still doesn't mean that I won't miss it sometime, I won't make a mistake,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she's often up at 3 a.m. For prayer and workday strategizing -- letting everyone know she's taking her new job seriously.

“I want them to walk out and believing that justice was done. And it was fairly done,” Johnson said.

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