Georgetown University Law Center, Washington .D.C.
Howard University, Washington, D.C.
O.D. Wyatt HS
After 17 years of practicing criminal law as both a prosecutor and defense attorney, I have resolved over 10,000 cases and tried over 150 trials ranging from capital murder to simple assault. As a prosecutor, I have worked in such divisions as juvenile, grand jury, felony trial, and felony family violence, and have served in a supervisory capacity in many of these roles. As a practicing defense attorney and business owner, I have represented clients in other legal matters, including family law, wills and probate, juvenile and civil law. Additionally, since 2009, I have served as a full-time professor and Legal Studies Director at Paul Quinn College, where I have taught over 25 classes in various subject matters in the field of law.
Without question, the victim and the accused both deserve swift justice. There is a fine and delicate line between swift justice and coerced pleas, especially in the criminal courts. The criminal justice system is riddled with so many issues that leave people who lack financial resources or knowledge of the legal field vulnerable. As a former prosecutor and now defense attorney, I understand the need for evidentiary dockets to ensure all evidence is received by the accused or a status conference docket that will help keep the court abreast of how the case is proceeding. However until bail reform is implemented in Dallas County, swift justice, especially for the poor, is sometimes just an illusion and a false equivalence of efficiency.
The unfortunate reality in the legal field is that finances play a significant role in someone's pursuit or access to justice. So many times, lawsuits are not filed or pursued by individuals because of monetary reasons. Justice should be accessible to all people, even if that means waiving or delaying the payment of filing fees or other associated costs for lawsuits until after the case has been resolved. Also, since many nonprofit organizations that provide free legal services are overworked, perhaps legislatively enacting tax incentives or reducing the number of yearly legal educational hours required for private attorneys that handle pro bono cases can help ensure that all individuals have access to much needed legal representation.
The issue I believe that is most pressing in the District Courts, especially criminal law, is this tragic phenomenon of mass incarceration. One way to address this is through bail reform. A majority of the people who are arrested and charged with offenses in Dallas County are indigent and cannot afford to retain an attorney, less alone make high bail amounts. The accused must make some hardcore, real-life decisions as whether to accept a plea bargain in order to expedite his or her release from jail or risk losing his or her employment, housing, and liberty for the sake of exercising his or her constitutional rights for a jury trial or hearing. In short, many plea bargains are coerced because the people are unable to bond out of jail.
Bachelor of Science from Old Dominion University 1994. Juris Doctor from SMU 1998.
Since taking the bench three years ago I have presided over thousands of felony cases and more than fifty jury trials including a capital murder trial where the State of Texas was seeking the death penalty. Before taking the bench, I was an Assistant District Attorney for Harris and Dallas Counties. In Dallas I was head of the Sexual Assault Unit and the homicide liaison for all the police agencies and the district attorney’s office. I was a supervisor in Dallas where I trained and managed other felony attorneys. I presented cases to grand juries and have tried over 150 felony jury trials for cases ranging from family violence assault, to animal cruelty, and capital murder cases. I have never had a public reprimand or a suspension.
I believe that swift justice is important for people accused of crime, as well as those who are victims. One of my campaign promises was to improve the efficiency of the 265th Judicial District Court. When I took office, it was one of the least efficient courts in Dallas County with people waiting in jail over two years for trial. Since taking office, I have cut the number of people in jail by more than half and drastically reduced jail wait times for trials. My court is now one of the most efficient courts in Dallas County. As I have done since taking office in January 2015, I will continue to hold both the state and the defense accountable for moving their cases along as quickly as possible without compromising fairness or justice.
I preside over a court that only handles criminal cases and we provide counsel to those who cannot afford an attorney.
It is important to help those with drug addiction and mental illness. Drug addiction and mental illness are serious issues facing our criminal justice system today. This is why I run the Dual Diagnosis Court (DDC) to help those on probation who have been diagnosed with both mental illness and drug addiction. In DDC we work to help those people achieve long term recovery and success by providing them with counseling, personal attention, and other services. We will need to continue finding options for people who end up in our criminal justice system due to mental illness. Additionally we are working on improving our pretrial system in Dallas County, and bail reform so that no one stays in jail just because they are poor.