The Williamson County Sun Endorses Ken Crain
This has been a troubling year for Williamson County citizens, who mostly believed this was a place where justice was reliably and faithfully served. The Michael Morton case shattered that belief. Many of us swore to take steps so that the sorts of mistakes made in the Morton case — in which an innocent man served 25 years in prison after his wife was murdered — could never be repeated.
Ramifications from the case, from the original investigaticin to more recent refusals over a six-year period by District Attorney John Bradley to allow DNA testing of a bloody bandana that might have exonerated Michael Morton, continued to make waves in the May 29 primary. The result was a solid defeat of incumbent District Attorney Bradley who until the Morton case had been considered one of the nation’s outstanding district attorneys. The victor in the primary was County Attorney Jana Duty, 47, who made Bradley’s handling of the Morton case the core of her campaign.
Early voting in the general election starts Monday. In this election, we have the Republican candidate, Jana Duty, of Georgetown, facing a Democratic challenger, Ken Crain of Georgetown. Crain, 58, decided to run last winter after learning about John Bradley’s fight — an “incomprehensible” fight in his view — to block DNA testing of the bloody bandana. “The Michael Morton case put a spotlight on Bradley’s judgment,” Crain said. “That’s why I am running. That’s why l’m in the race.”
When Crain announced, Duty had not yet declared she would run against Bradley. Several people had lined up to run against her as County Attorney in the May primary Instead, she ran for the district attorney’s job.
There are interrsting parallels between Crain and Duty. Both grew up in San Antonio, went to law school in Texas (Crain to the University of Texas and Duty to St. Mary’s), passed the bar in Texas, and moved to Williamson County to establish careers. They are both persuasive as smart, competent people. They are also quite different.
Duty has spent most of her professional life as an attorney working for government agencies, in Bexar County and in Williamson County, where her attention has been focused largely on family violence and Child Protective Services cases. In Williamson County the county attorney’s office prosecutes juvenile cases and adult misdemeanors.
Crain, second youngest of seven children, earned an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at age 17 and, after his graduation, served in the US. Navy from 1976 through 1981. While on active duty, he was surface warfare officer on a destroyer and a nuclear power cruiser that patrolled the Persian Gulf, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and North Atlantic. He was in charge of repairing all mechanical problems and keeping interior communications shipshape, with approximately 50 sailors under his command on each vessel.
When he arrived in Georgetown after passing the Texas Bar exam, he worked for about 18 months under then-County Attorney Billy Ray Stubblefield. In 1986 Crain established his own criminal and family law private practice. People who hav6 worked with him consider him an excellent attorney who knows the law well and has handled virtually every kind of case — someone well prepared to be district attorney.
As county attorney, Duty has a reputation for having done a good job in prosecuting juvenile and family law cases. She has organized and made more efficient her growing office. She is charming and a good speaker. But a significant part of her job is acting as attorney for the county’s officials, most prominently the county commissioners court.
Her leadership on this front has been costly to county taxpayers and strange. She has filed lawsuits against several judges, including County Judge Dan A. Gattis, and against the entire commissioners court. Countering, the county commissioners court fired Duty from representing them and hired an independent attorney. After a series of legal wranglings, the State Bar of Texas publicly reprimanded Duty for revealing confidential information from an executive session of the Williamson County Commissioners Court.
It was Duty’s jurisdictional duty to defend the county, but it was by choice that she represented District Attorney John Bradley in federal court during the legal fracas over whether he could block DNA testing in the Morton case. It was not until Duty announced her campaign against Bradley that she started criticizing his unwillingness to allow DNA testing.
Duty’s fights against our county commissioners and judges and tendency to sever communications with press organizations when stories do not please her raise grave concerns as to how she might handle the considerable powers and pressures of the district attorney’s office.
Ken Crain has conducted his career in the Navy and as an attorney in Georgetown in a measured and humane manner He is honest and decent. He says of the 12 assistant DA’s at the district attorney’s office, “If elected I will try to retain as many as possible. With each one handling 100 to 300 active cases, it would be a tragedy to lose these people.”
Crain believes we need to be tough on crime but smart, too. Ideas he proposes include a “no-refusal” DWI policy that would allow blood to be drawn in suspected DWI cases that would identify riot only alcohol content in the blood, but prescription and illegal drugs; this would “cut down on jury trials” because of the clarity of the evidence; a work-release program for first-time offenders that would allow jail prisoners to keep their jobs while serving, say, a 60-day sentence (only jail time and work time would be allowed); and an open files policy for the DAs office, which would allow defense attorneys to see evidence that might help their clients.
We like Ken Grain’s maturity and honesty, his willingness to utilize a top-flight district attorney’s staff, the management experience that he acquired in the Navy, his brain power, and most especially, his superior experience practicing all sorts of law over a 27-year career as an attorney in Georgetown. He is by far the most qualified of the candidates in this election, We strongly recommend him as Williamson County’s next district attorney.