If you've seen Republican Danny Clancy's latest political ad above or his first one, you know what he views as District Attorney Craig Watkins's biggest wart: never prosecuting a felony case. But that's not true, according to Kurt Watkins, Craig's cousin and campaign manager.
In fact, Craig examined two witnesses, presented closing arguments and successfully argued for the death penalty in December 2008 during the trial of Robert Sparks, who was convicted of fatally stabbing his wife and two young stepsons before raping his two adolescent stepdaughters. The Dallas County District Attorney's efforts are well-chronicled in The Dallas Morning News, including its editorial naming him 2008 Texan of the Year, and his participation in Sparks's trial was part of the fifth episode of Dallas DNA.
"When the sitting DA of one of the largest counties in the nation personally questions the witnesses and gives the closing argument in a death-penalty trial, that's prosecuting a case," Kurt tells Unfair Park. "District Attorney Watkins used his influence to guarantee the right conviction was secured and justice was served."
Yet Brian Mayes, Clancy's spokesperson, is unconvinced that Craig's role in Sparks's trial should be considered as prosecuting a case and says the DA told DMN'er Gromer Jeffers on two occasions that he hadn't prosecuted a case. (Despite searching, we were unable to find any articles by Jeffers saying this.)
"If his claim to fame was that he showed up to do a courtesy closing argument and examined two witnesses and in a death penalty case as a show-boating effort, then that's a shame," Mayes says. "If he's proud of being DA for four years and that's the extent of his prosecution experience, then Dallas County's in trouble. He has not handled the prosecution of a single case."
Kurt Watkins says Clancy's campaign and his team of consultants have resorted to "desperate political stunts and misleading voters" to grab attention and stresses that the Watkins campaign wants to talk about facts. "The facts are that District Attorney Watkins has personally prosecuted a case, maintained a 99.4 percent conviction rate, expanded the Sexual Assault Unit to better serve women in Dallas County and created a nationally recognized Conviction Integrity Unit to make sure we are freeing the innocent and convicting the guilty."
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Even if the allegation about Craig was true, we asked Mayes about its relevancy, given that most big-city DAs don't prosecute cases.
"Well, that's not Dallas County, and Danny Clancy believes that if you're gonna fight crime in an urban county, you've got to have a district attorney that first of all is capable of prosecuting a case and handling it from start to finish, but also one who's willing to roll up his sleeves and set an example for the younger prosecutors," he says.
When we asked how many cases former Republican District Attorney Bill Hill (Watkins's predecessor) prosecuted, Mayes quickly pointed out that Hill prosecuted the infamous "Texas Seven." However, Toby Shook -- ironically, Watkins's opponent in 2006 -- was the lead prosecutor in the cases against the six surviving members.
Craig's latest ad: