Suzanne West for 63rd Judicial District Attorney

Campaign Issues

The things I will achieve in my tenure are the following, and are described in more detail in the paragraphs on the rest of this page:

  1. Assigned, trained, designated victim’s advocate in the office that notifies victims of court dates, support systems, state resources, and communicates regarding release dates.
  2. Prepare each case as though it might go to trial.  The preparation for these trials is the foundation for future outstanding investigations and communications.
  3. Try tough cases.  This also trains officers in ways that no amount of other types of training can do.
  4. Eliminate the expectation that most cases will be deferred or dismissed.
  5. Annually or more, provide training for law enforcement in evidence foundations and trial tactics.
  6. Timely communications with all—return phone calls and other communications within 48 hours.

 

 

Small Habits, Over Time = Big Directional Change

Vince Lombardi (famous football coach) summed up mental discipline as the precursor to desired outcomes perfectly.  He said:

“Winning is a habit.  Watch your thoughts, they become your beliefs.  Watch your beliefs, they become your words.  Watch your words, they become your actions.  Watch your actions, they become your habits.  Watch your habits, they become your character.”

A District Attorney MUST repeatedly think, believe, speak, and act over time in ways that exemplify a belief in accountability for criminals.

Dismissing or deferring too many cases can become a habit, and then eventually becomes one’s character as a prosecutor.  

The habits that create the fair imposition of justice begin with CASE EVALUATION.  Not who the defense attorney might be (all should be treated collegially).  Not whether the victim is scared, intimidated, and distant (they almost all are).  

Case evaluation stems from a sound decision based on whether the elements of the case can be proven, and if so, what is fair accountability for the accused.  

Consistent case evaluation over time creates a District Attorney’s character for assertive and fair justice served.  This is what I will do as your District Attorney.

Personal Violence Affects Individuals, Neighborhoods, and the Entire Community

  • More than 90% of child sexual abuse victims know their attacker. (From the Center for Family Justice website quoting statistics from Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement by Howard Snyder.)
  • Nearly 6 out of 10 sexual assaults occur in the victim’s home or the home of a friend, relative or neighbor. (From the Center for Family Justice website quoting statistics from Department of Justice)
  • Overall violent crime in Texas has slightly increased in recent years, after steady declines through 2016. (from Texas Tribune article in 2018, citing FBI statistics)
  • Violent crimes are a significant public health concern.  Most violent crimes occur in homes and neighborhoods.  This includes burglaries, aggravated assaults, etc.  Thus, if not addressed, people feel unsafe in their neighborhoods and the economic value of a community declines.  

Because this personal violence is more often than not perpetrated by someone known to the victim, when a case is not prosecuted justly, that child or that adult victim remains in the same environment of danger—with no change to make them more safe.  

This cycle has numerous detrimental effects to the victim and the community.  These victims have serious psychological consequences, and are statistically more likely to abuse others and to be a victim again.  Thus the cycles of violence continue if victims are not assisted and supported in ways to carry them through the criminal justice process.  

Domestic violence alone costs $8.3 billion dollars a year in the United States.  Other types of personal violence cost much, much more.

If the violence or crime occurred in one of our neighborhoods or businesses, and is not prosecuted with justice in mind, then the people living in those neighborhoods and depending upon those businesses do not receive the protection that they deserve from criminals.  Neighborhoods spiral downward instead of upward and businesses look for a more business-friendly environment.

As District Attorney, I will support these individuals, neighborhoods, and businesses with their cases in order to appear for their day in court.  I will help them through the system so that our neighborhoods are safe, our businesses can thrive, and our children are protected.  

More cases should be convictions than dismissals or deferrals.  Justice requires it.

Communication, Cooperation, and Training with Law Enforcement

Excellence in our criminal justice system requires multiple moving parts to intersect seamlessly.  The District Attorney’s office should meet with officers, deputies, agents, troopers, supervisors, and agency heads regularly.  Under my tenure, the focus will remain on cases at the inception—properly prepping witnesses, reviewing evidence sufficiency, and requesting improvements where necessary.  My staff will be encouraged to make and maintain these connections, and there will be regularly scheduled sessions to provide practice for testimony and trial preparation.

All of our law enforcement agencies operate with limited budgets and resources.  It is essential that the District Attorney assist these departments in the most effective use of the investigator’s time and attention.  Men and women that wear a badge for a living do not do so with the intention that their hard work is for nothing and that most of their cases get dismissed.  However, follow-up and tough discussions are time consuming and require that these relationships become and remain a priority.  

I have spent years advising law enforcement, I value the same ideals that officers value, and I will work to use those skills and relationships to promote the best outcomes possible for the officers’ cases.

Jury Trials Are Necessary for Justice

One axiom for prosecutors that others may not know is that the easy cases rarely get tried.  The defendants usually plead guilty when it is a “slam dunk.”  Therefore, the cases that MUST be tried, for prosecutors to promote justice, are the tough cases.  Maybe there is only one witness, maybe a witness is hesitant, maybe the witness has some background issues that don’t sound great.  Sometimes state agencies are involved, and coordination of evidence and testimony is complicated.  However, if only perfect cases get tried, then justice is lost.  

Witnesses are human, victims are human, officers are human and all these necessary parties to a trial make mistakes just like the rest of the world.  So do prosecutors, juries, and judges.  The humanity is what makes the justice system sustainable and the best system known to man.

The duty of the District Attorney is to accept all these weaknesses in a trial, so  long as the elements of the crime exist, face them head on and prepare as best you can…..and still head to trial if required.  If the defendant accepts a reasonable and just plea agreement, then justice is still served.  

But it was the preparation and willingness to go to trial to begin with that creates the environment that encourages the defendant to take a reasonable plea deal.  

In the pursuit of these tough cases, even falling short of perfection (see Vince Lombardi quote above), excellence in prosecution is found. 

Juvenile Justice Programs

Our youth is the future of our community.  The 63rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office handles the cases involving juvenile offenders, couched as “Delinquent Conduct” under the Family Code.  In the past, I have worked closely with the probation department and will continue to foster a teamwork approach in those cases.

In addition, it is important to encourage and explore the development of new ideas that could reduce recidivism in juvenile offenders.  I was the co-creator of a Juvenile Restorative Justice Program in Boerne, Texas with some success stories as a result.  These type of programs depend upon the culture of the community in order to succeed, and different work better in different communities.  

As District Attorney, I would meet with and discuss this and other types of approaches to attempt to address juvenile offenders in a way that leads them on a good path away from destructive behaviors to help our youth start out in the right direction if the offenses committed merit this approach.