The Mineral Wells Index recently asked candidates running in the five contested county races to provide information and answer – within 300 words or less – questions in order to help voters decide who to support and vote for. The primary elections are March 3, and early voting begins February 18. Only Republicans are running local races. There are no Democratic candidates seeking a county office.
Here are responses from Kristina Massey, candidate for Palo Pinto County District Attorney:
Name: Kristina Massey
Employment (current and relevant past employment): Law Office of Kristina Massey doing criminal defense. Five years as Assistant District Attorney of Palo Pinto County. One year as a prosecutor for the City of Corpus Christi. Previous criminal defense work and staff attorney for the Eastland Crisis Center. Five years as a police dispatcher and four years as a probation officer prior to law school.
Family (Spouse, children): Mother-Claudia Fowler lives in Mineral Wells, Father-Jerrel Massey lives in Jack County.
Education/training/certifications: Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice, Masters of Science in Applied Criminology, and Juris Doctorate. I have been certified as a police dispatcher and emergency medical dispatcher. Certified as a Community Supervision Officer. I have attended the Prosecutor’s Skills Course, numerous prosecutor conferences, including Crime’s against Women. I have also taken the Ethics for Prosecutors course. I have also attended numerous trainings as a defense attorney in criminal law and procedure.
QUESTION 1: Why do you want to be district attorney for Palo Pinto County? What qualifications and experience make you the best choice to handle and prosecute felony cases in Palo Pinto County?
My entire intent of going to law school was to be a prosecutor. When I was hired as the Assistant District Attorney of Palo Pinto County, I had found my dream job. I was a prosecutor in a small rural community like the one I grew up in. I fell in love with the county and bought my home in Palo Pinto. I planned to stay in the District Attorney’s office and eventually take over the position of District Attorney.
I want to serve this county by making sure that our District Attorney’s office is working to seek justice for our community. Ensure that the office is following the Texas and U.S. Constitutions, and the Texas Code of Criminal Procedures, and is fiscally responsible in the process.
My varied experience makes me uniquely qualified to be DA. My experience as a police dispatcher taught me how the police departments function and how to deal with the officers in a beneficial way. My experience as a probation officers showed me not only how that process works and the pitfalls, but also formed my beliefs about the drug problems in our communities. My experience as a municipal prosecutor and then the Assistant District Attorney gave me the trial knowledge and experience to handle criminal cases from a Class C all the way up to a capital murder.
This unique combination of experience allows me to do the job in a way that is effective for all facets of the system and make all parts a team. My experience at the Crisis Center made me even more aware of how victims are feeling about the process and how to help them through it. This varied knowledge and experience means I can work with all parties to ensure justice is served.
Here are responses from Palo Pinto County District Attorney Kriste Burnett:
QUESTION 2: What do you consider to be the most important aspect(s) of being district attorney? What qualities make for a district attorney the people can have faith and trust in carrying out the duties and responsibilities of this office?
The most import aspect is seeking justice. It is stated in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure: “It shall be the primary duty of all prosecuting attorneys, including any special prosecutors, not to convict, but to see that justice is done. They shall not suppress facts or secrete witnesses capable of establishing the innocence of the accused.” What justice is, depends on the all the facts of a case, and the parties involved. It is the DA’s job to examine all those facts and determine what the best course of action is. The qualities that make a DA someone that the people can have faith in and trust this responsibility to are honesty, integrity, professionalism, and the ability to communicate with the community to ensure they stay in touch with what the community expects.
QUESTION 3: For the incumbent, what changes have been made while in office that have led to improvements and better efficiencies and improved case disposition rates? Some cases take two or more years to resolve, so have you been able to reduce the backlog of caseloads to make for more timely dispositions, and if so how were you able to do that? What are the biggest challenges and obstacles in dealing with caseloads in this county? For the challenger, what changes/improvements would you propose making if elected to improve efficiencies and increase case dispositions?
The changes I would make is efficiency in handling the docket, fiscal responsibility, and professionalism. With the sheer number of cases that go through the DA’s office every year, it is impossible to take every case to trial. So, it is imperative that plea agreements are made that can move cases.
Plea agreements do not mean easy sentences, they mean just sentences. When cases are not able to be disposed of by plea, trials must take place. We can not have people sitting in jail waiting for their day in court for two years, or out on bond for four years. Generally, there can be between 10 and 22 trials in a year depending on the court schedule and complexity of the trials. With only 19 jury trials in the last three years, the docket is not being resolved as it should and people are languishing in jail, costing county tax dollars.
I will work towards finding what just sentences are in our community that will move those cases, and take the others to trial in a swift manner. By doing so, reduce the amount of money the county is spending housing inmates. I will also focus on violent crimes to get those dangerous individuals out of our community and jail. I would also make the time in court more professional by reorganizing the way in which plea negotiations are handled. Having every defense attorney asking for plea offers and trying to negotiate in court makes the court look hectic and chaotic. These negotiations can and should be handled outside the courtroom, preferably before court day, with only small conversations about changes made in court. Negotiations prior to court would allow for cases to move faster through the system also.
QUESTION 4: Most people would agree drug use and trafficking, especially methamphetamine, is the biggest issue in not just our county and communities but many others across the state and nation. What is the best way to treat those charged and convicted of these crimes to try and reduce their use and dependence on them and reduce its impacts on crime and those these crimes victimize?
Drugs are a horrible affliction on our and other communities. My years as a probation officer had me working directly with those addicts that got into legal trouble. From that experience, I learned that you can only combat the problem through prevention and rehabilitation. You have to cut demand to win the battle. This only applies to the addicts, not the drug dealers. My philosophy is to catch them young and early. I believe it is imperative that the DA’s office and law enforcement work with the schools on preventative programs for our youth.
For those that we don’t successfully prevent from becoming addicts, we need to seek treatment options. That means community supervision with drug counseling as it’s the only way to ensure that treatment is achieved. Teach them how to be productive citizens and methods to become and stay clean.
If that fails, then punishment is require with enough time to hopefully change their mindset before release back into the community. If we don’t try to stop the cycle, the cycle of the rotating prison door will continue. When it comes to the drug dealers, my philosophy is to hit them hard with prison time. If you bring poison into our community, we find a way to keep you out of it.