Search About Subscribe Donate
These stories might otherwise remain hidden

The Marshall Project highlights criminal justice issues that often go overlooked or that people in power want to hide. Support from readers like you helps us keep criminal justice on the front page. Because that’s how change happens. With just $8,573 left to go, you can help us reach our goal of $15,000 for this fall campaign.

Asked and Answered

‘The Rules Are So Thoroughly Stacked in the Defendant’s Favor.’

A Texas prosecutor on drug laws, jury bias, and the worst part of his job.

Years working as a prosecutor:

Six

Why did you want to become a prosecutor?

I live in a small county, and I evaluated the other attorneys in the area and reluctantly determined that I was the best equipped to serve the public interest.

How many active cases are you handling right now?

100+ misdemeanors

What is a common misconception that people have about what you do?

That my goal is to get a conviction. In Texas, a prosecutor is ethically required to seek justice, not a conviction.

Approximately what percent of your cases go to trial?

Less than 5 percent

What percent of your cases results in a prison sentence?

Less than 5 percent (there are only 20 beds at the county jail to house misdemeanor convictions).

What percent of people who plead guilty do you believe are actually innocent?

Less than 1 percent (it is unrealistic to assume that it has never happened).

On a scale of 1 to 10, how stressful do you find your job? (10 being extremely stressful)

Five

If you could change one law, what would it be and why?

This country has a family violence problem, and most states classify a first-time, non-hospital-inducing offense as misdemeanor, which feeds into the public perception that it is not a big deal. I would elevate any offensive contact that causes visible bodily injury to a state jail felony. It needs to be viewed with same social stigma as perpetrators of sexual assault or child abuse.

How has being a prosecutor changed your views on the criminal justice system?

The rules are so thoroughly stacked in the defendant's favor in this country. The overwhelming majority of acquitted defendants, despite being found not guilty by a jury, actually committed the acts for which they were charged. Based on my post-trial conversations with jurors, the reasonable-doubt standard appears to have been elevated to an absolute-certainty level of proof in the minds of many jurors.

Do you support the death penalty?

Yes, but not in its present form. Its only value is as a public deterrent. However, when executions are conducted behind relatively closed doors, as presently done in Texas, they have only limited value as a deterrent. A life in prison is a much greater punishment in my mind.

Complete the following sentence: Drug sentencing laws are ...

... based upon the financial motives of the legislature. Concepts such as "deterrence" or "punishment" or "rehabilitation" are secondary to budgetary pressures.

What is the worst part of your job?

The specific knowledge of how humanity is capable of treating one another.

If you didn’t become a prosecutor, what do you think you’d be doing for a living?

I would be a civil lawyer.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Are you a prosecutor? Help others learn more about what you do by filling out our questionnaire.

Before you go...

Can you help us make a difference?

The Marshall Project produces journalism that makes an impact. Our investigation into violence using police dogs prompted departments from Indiana to Louisiana to change their policies. Thousands of cameras were installed in the infamous Attica prison after we revealed the extent of violent abuse by guards. Municipalities stopped charging parents for their kids’ incarceration because of our reporting. Supreme Court justices have cited us, along with incarcerated people acting as their own lawyers.

The deeply reported and painstakingly edited investigations we produce take persistence, significant resources and, above all, time. That’s why we need your support. Donations from readers like you allow us to commit the time and attention needed to tell stories that are driving real change. Your support goes a long way toward sustaining this important work..

We’re still just over $8,000 short of our goal of $15,000 for this fall campaign — if you’re able, please donate today. We’re extremely grateful to each and every donor who helps power our journalism. We could not do it without you.

Donate