DALLAS — Dallas attorney Deandra Grant once counted herself among Susan Hawk’s biggest supporters.
She still even has the “Susan Hawk for District Attorney” in her garage, a relic of her one-time support for someone she’s known for years.
Grant now believes that the time has come for Hawk to step down, particularly in light of the fact that she’s in a psychiatric hospital for the second time in less than a year.
“I hope that she recovers from whatever it is that she’s suffering from but the office cannot be run with a district attorney who is in a mental institution,” said Grant, a Republican. “This is not cancer or diabetes. This is some sort of mental illness that requires hospitalization and the job is bigger than Susan Hawk.”
Last fall, Hawk looked like she was coming back strong after nearly two months in a psychiatric hospital. Then she won a very public court battle four and half months ago to keep her job after a former prosecutor filed a civil suit seeking to remove her under a little-used state statute.
But more recently she had dropped out of sight and missed several appearances.
News 8 has obtained county security access records that give some indication of how long Hawk has been absent from the office. Prior to last week, Hawk had not used her access card in about two and half weeks, the records show. Several courthouse employees also said they had not seen her car for about two weeks.
On Friday, her office acknowledged that she had "voluntarily sought treatment at the Menninger Clinic in Houston, Texas. Her office has insisted that it will continue to operate normally in her absence.
“The elected district attorney is the person who makes calls on whether or not to seek the death penalty,” Grant said. “And if your elected district attorney can't stay out of a mental hospital how much confidence do you have in their ability to make those kinds of life and death decisions?”
Grant and other defense attorneys say they have experienced a number of recent problems with prosecutors withholding evidence.
There was recently one-high profile case in which two respected attorneys alleged that the prosecutors withheld evidence in a sexual assault of a child case. The DA’s office has since agreed to an expungement – which is something that they rarely do.
“The handling of those allegations by this office while Susan has been AWOL has not been good,” she said.
Grant, like many other Republicans, was thrilled when Hawk won the election and even more thrilled when she announced the hiring of well-respected prosecutor Bill Wirskye and Republican former state district judge Jennifer Balido.
“I thought she would raise morale, that the office would be excellent again,” Grant said.
Hawk’s tenure has been troubled almost from the start.
There was a series of controversial forced departures early on of well-respected investigators an prosecutors including Wirskye and Balido. Both Wirskye and Balido publicly recounted numerous stories of Hawk’s odd, paranoid behavior.
“There was a lot of paranoia,” Balido says. “There was a lot of thinking people were out to get her. It was a very difficult work environment.”
Then in the spring of 2015, Hawk was forced to acknowledged that she had sought inpatient treatment for prescription drug use while she was running for district attorney. Claiming she was away having back surgery, Hawk lied about the treatment during her campaign .
“Obviously she has major issues,” Balido said. “I think that her problems are bigger than this job and she needs to take care of herself and I don't think having this job is helping her any. I really don't.”
It’s not clear when Hawk’s mental state began deteriorating again. Four and half months ago, high-ranking prosecutors wrote affidavits supporting her staying on as DA.
One high-ranking prosecutor said that since she returned from treatment, Hawk had been "engaging, vibrant and focused." Another described her as "relaxed, aware, articulate, (and) goal-driven."
“There were probably about 20 affidavits in that case, but not one of them came from Susan or from her doctor or from her treatment provider and I think that was kind of telling,” Balido said. “It makes me kind of wonder if the case they were putting forth was actually the truth or not.”
But as that prior court case shows, it's very hard to remove a district attorney from office. So the question now -- does Susan Hawk still think she can do the job?