2017-04-07 14:00:04 UTC
Dallas County district attorney's office to show mercy to 'lost souls'
The new Dallas County district attorney and her first assistant view the people
who go through the criminal court system as "lost souls or monsters."
Faith Johnson says her job as district attorney doesn't always call for
toughness; sometimes justice requires mercy.
"We're compassionate where compassion is needed. We're merciful when mercy is
needed," she said Tuesday night at a community forum at Concord Church in Red
It was the 1st of what Johnson says will be a quarterly forum to answer
questions and explain how the local criminal justice system works.
Johnson, a Republican and former judge, was appointed in December by Gov. Greg
Abbott to replace Susan Hawk, who resigned in September to focus on her mental
Johnson, the 1st black woman to become Dallas County district attorney, has
said she plans to run for the office when her term expires next year.
In her first 90 days in office, she has attended more than 140 community events
and meetings. She regularly takes her prosecutors to lunch to get to know them
and their work. She is often 1st to the office and last to leave.
"I have been getting only four hours sleep so I can restore the relationship
between the community and the DA's office," Johnson said.
Her top priority has been to facilitate an expungement program to clear some
criminal records. The crimes must be non-violent and meet other requirements.
And for the people whose crimes can't be erased, Johnson wants to help them
clear their public criminal records so they don't have trouble getting a job or
qualifying for housing.
"We want them to get a job," she said. "Share the load of the taxes."
She said those efforts are part of being just. It's the same reason she says
she wants to boost the DA's office conviction integrity unit, the group that
has overseen the reversal of wrongful convictions.
And when asked about her approach to the death penalty, Johnson said it's her
job to abide the law, and execution is legal in Texas.
But, she said, Dallas County prosecutors will pursue the death penalty only
when they are "darn sure that that's what we need to do."
She said that's part of her oath: to uphold the law for everyone.
"I'm going to do what's right by you. I don't care who you are. You could be
black, white, purple, green," Johnson said. "You could be rich, poor. You could
live in North Dallas, south, east, west. I got you. I got you. I'm here for
First Assistant District Attorney Mike Snipes called Johnson the "real deal"
and said she has a compassionate approach to the job.
"We're going to take care of the lost souls. We're going to try to rehabilitate
them. We're going to try to reintegrate them into society," he said.
As for the monsters: "The judge and I are coming after them."
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Lost souls, not monsters
Re: "New DA pledges she'll uphold law for everyone -- Restoring the public's
trust is crucial, Johnson says at her first forum," Thursday Metro story.
I am pleased that the current district attorney speaks of compassion and mercy
for those she refers to as "lost souls." It is commendable that she seeks the
reintegration of nonviolent offenders back into our society so they can
hopefully lead productive lives.
It is unfortunate and inexcusable that Faith Johnson's office uses language to
dehumanize those who may have committed violent offenses. To be sure, violent
offenders need to be punished and imprisoned, as society has a fundamental
right to be safe. But such offenders are not "monsters."
The law allows district attorneys to use judicial discretion to seek the death
penalty; they are certainly not obligated to do so. It would be refreshing and
humanizing to see our district attorney show true mercy to all offenders, and
to see her extend justice in the name of the law while recognizing the inherent
truth about human rights: There is no such thing as a lesser person.
Rick Halperin, Dallas, Director, Embrey Human Rights Program at Southern
(source: Letter to the Editor, Dallas Morning News)
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