Meetings for a smooth transition at the Dallas County District Attorney's Office have begun as a new DA is set to take over after last week’s midterm election.
Former Judge John Creuzot will take over the office at the first of the year from Republican Faith Johnson, who was appointed in January 2017 after the resignation of Susan Hawk. Creuzot, the Democratic candidate for DA, said he will stay true to his platform of judicial reform and wants to take a pragmatic approach to reduce mass incarceration.
But Creuzot is also inheriting several high-profile cases, most notably the shooting death of Botham Jean in his own apartment by an off-duty Dallas police officer.
"I think the problem with the case so far has been the lack of transparency about it,” Creuzot said in an interview on Wednesday.
Based on what he's seen in media reports, Creuzot is concerned that DA's office, under Johnson, was not forthcoming enough to the public about the progress of the investigation. The case has yet to be presented to a grand jury and Creuzot views the manslaughter charge against fired officer Amber Guyger as insufficient.
"I haven't seen anything, including the probable cause affidavit, that would suggest that it's a manslaughter case. And so, I think that without knowing it, I think that based on what we know, I think that we should be honest and say the more likely, the appropriate charge is murder,” Creuzot said.
Creuzot also believes another recent officer-involved shooting that ended with a mistrial deserves further review. Mesquite police officer Derick Wiley shot and wounded Lyndo Jones during a suspicious person call. Cruezot says he would consider a retrial if he finds evidence of jury misconduct.
"I would have to look at all the evidence and find out why there was mistrial,” Creuzot said. “If anyone spoke to the jurors and what the problems are and if they can be overcome. but just my kind of default position would be yes, I would.”
Creuzot ran on a platform of judicial reform. As a judge in the late 90's he started Dallas County's first drug court and the program's success led to an area treatment center bearing his name.
"I think I'm uniquely qualified to do that because of my long history of criminal justice reform. I think that I communicate well, I think I have the respect of the prosecutors,” Creuzot said.
He also disputes Johnson's ad campaign that characterized him as soft on crime.
"I was the chief felony prosecutor. And I've tried lots of murder cases, robbery cases, aggravated robbery, agg sexual assault and what have you. And we will still prosecute those cases and prosecute them vigorously,” Creuzot said.
Creuzot said there are quality prosecutors and staff in place in the office and his goal is to get everyone on the same page as they move forward with his vision of justice in Dallas County.