New Dallas County district attorney could have big effect on pending high-profile cases

Big changes are coming to the Dallas County District Attorney's Office after voters paved the way for new Democratic leadership.

Former State District Judge John Creuzot is the district attorney-elect, taking over for Faith Johnson after she was appointed by Governor Gregg Abbott in 2017.

In Johnson's short tenure, some controversial cases have crossed her desk like the Botham Jean case that is still in limbo.

How big the changes will be remains to be seen. But any changes will be far-reaching for an office that oversees a staff of 450 and handles about 100,000 cases a year.

Newly-elected Dallas County DA John Creuzot swiftly beat Incumbent Faith Johnson Tuesday night. But the win comes on the heels of a major win for Johnson with the prosecution and conviction of former Balch Springs Police Officer Roy Oliver.

Shortly after stepping off stage, Creuzot was asked if he'll be as tough on bad cops.

“If a police officer shoots and kills or hurts or harms someone and they don't have justification for it, they'll be prosecuted just like the average person will,” he said.

As Creuzot waits to be sworn in on Jan. 1, major cases are pending at the Frank Crowley Courthouse. Pending cases include the upcoming trial for former Dallas Police Officer Christopher Hess, who is accused of shooting and killing 21-year-old Genevieve Dawes. His additional body camera video was recently released.

The Botham Jean case is another one Cruezot will have to handle. Jean was unarmed when he was shot and killed by former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger. She claimed she mistook his apartment for her own. The Texas Rangers charged her with manslaughter, but Johnson says she'll let a grand jury decide if that charge sticks or if it should be upgraded to murder.

Daryl Washington is representing the Jean family in a civil suit against the city of Dallas and is watching the criminal case closely.

“They were able to get a comfort level with the process and what was going on with the investigation, so now it's just the unknown,” Washington said. “What's going to happen? Will this current DA go on with the grand jury proceedings, or will we now have to have this transferred to the new DA?”

Former Prosecutor Toby Shook is not connected to the case. He says an administration transition can be a nervous time for prosecutors unsure if their jobs are on the line.

Looking back, former DA Craig Watkins fired 10 senior prosecutors to install his own loyal crew. What's coming up for the Creuzot administration remains to be seen.

“Every new DA brings in a different amount of people. And once that decision is made, he may re-assign the prosecutors who are working on some of the more high-profile cases. That's not unusual,” Shook said. “Or he may decide the prosecutors are doing a fine job, or he may decide he wants to participate in some of these prosecutions.”

Creuzot says he was unavailable to speak on camera on Wednesday. He was heading out of town to visit family. But he did say he hasn't made any decisions yet. He said he'd been focused on the campaign and wants to meet with prosecutors and get up to speed on cases before he's able to comment on what positions he'll take.