DALLAS — The incumbent Dallas County district attorney recently made a decision that’s playing a large role in the campaign leading up to the March 1 primary.
Democrat John Creuzot says prosecutors will no longer make any indictment recommendations to a grand jury in any criminal case. Before this, there were no recommendations only in cases involving police officers suspected of a crime.
“What we’ve done is made the policy consistent for everybody. It gives primacy to the presumption of innocence,” Creuzot said on Inside Texas Politics.
Legal experts say recommending whether a grand jury should indict in a criminal case is standard practice among prosecutors in most places in not just Texas, but the rest of the country. And as it relates to police officers, Creuzot was continuing a policy put in place by a predecessor.
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But as district attorney, he has now expanded it.
“And either we present a case or not. And the grand jury should exercise their discretion in making a decision,” he said.
And the recommendation issue isn’t the only major reform implemented by Creuzot facing criticism. A year after taking office in 2018, he announced his office would no longer prosecute theft of personal items under $750.
State law says below this threshold, the crime is only a Class B misdemeanor. And any theft up to $100 goes to a municipality. Creuzot says the policy only applies to “necessary items,” such as food, diapers or formula.
And the Democrat says theft crimes in this range had been steadily dropping every year even before he took office.
“What we have found is that the number of theft cases the last five or six years, that category between $100 to $750 has gone consistently down. Some years by as much as 34%,” said Creuzot. “And so, what’s the point? No impact. Did not create crime.”
The theft policy is part of Creuzot’s pledge to end mass incarceration. Another tenet of that philosophy is his decision to stop prosecuting first-time misdemeanor marijuana cases, a crime, he says, disproportionately affected Black communities.
“We have rejected those cases. And there’s been no increase in crime,” said the district attorney.
Before becoming district attorney, Creuzot spent more than two decades as a felony district court judge. He was also a Dallas County assistant district attorney and a criminal defense lawyer.
Creuzot and his Democratic challenger in the primary, Elizabeth Frizell, are no strangers in this race. Frizell narrowly lost to Creuzot, by only hundreds of votes, in the 2018 Democratic primary.
The winner will face Republican candidate Faith Johnson, who is running unopposed in her primary and who is also a former Dallas County district attorney.
The Texas primary is currently scheduled for March 1, 2022.