Dallas DA Watkins, Once Acclaimed, Now Taking Hits, Lying Low


Craig Watkins was swept in as Dallas County district attorney on a demographic and political wave so unexpected that many Democrats chose not to run. He was a long-shot candidate in 2006, with relatively thin credentials. He moved quickly on key promises that helped free several wrongly accused prisoners, says the Dallas Morning News. His image — that of a defender of justice, trying to quash institutional bias against minorities — earned him flattering national reviews and speaking gigs.

His standing has taken a number of hits lately, marked by critics sniping about his management style, a rocky relationship with county commissioners, and an unexplained visit last week to his office by the FBI public corruption unit. Watkins' handling of several high-profile incidents — including a troubled investigation against two constables — has caused some county officials to question his judgment and whether he's damaged the office's reputation. A growing number of experienced prosecutors have left or been fired, and some working in the courthouse are barred from giving out routine information about trials, or even their names, to reporters. Since his re-election in November, Watkins largely has retreated from the public eye and is not often seen during the day outside his office. He refused to be interviewed.

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