by Marion Marks
The outcries were not just local; the national press was incensed by words and policies coming out of the Caddo District Attorney’s office before and after the death of former DA Charles Rex Scott. And, it appeared inevitable: Dale Cox is out! Everyone seemed to be “piling on!” From the New Yorker, New York Times, Shreveport Times, KTBS, KSLA and even a few in his own office, everyone sang in unison that Dale Cox could not be the executive leader and a prosecutor at the same time he was demanding “Kill more people.”
The verdict seemed to come from the many signs going up in Caddo parish that a large majority of his own office was supporting one of his assistants, Dhu Thompson to be the successor in the October election. And with at least four other candidates in the mix, Dale could not focus on the cases in court and run a successful campaign.
So now that another step has been taken to succeed Charles Scott by those with a vested interest in keeping the uniform district attorney’s office intact, it seems to be apparent that Judge James Stewart must now decide to step up and announce his candidacy. This does mean that he will have to step down from his position as a judge, but many in the legal community view him as an admirable legal mind to help mend the many problems in the prosecutorial community.
Leading another wing of the legal community is a prominent criminal defense attorney who has seen the alleged abuses in prosecutions, Lee Harville. Harville made an impressive statement following news that Cox dropped out of the race. His words will probably solicit deeper investigation by voters into the office of district attorney and the issues at stake. His statement was:
“While Acting District Attorney Dale Cox’s decision not to seek election as District Attorney for Caddo Parish removes him from the race, it does nothing to change the culture of the office, of which he has long been a vital part. In his e-mail withdrawing from the race, Mr. Cox claims that harsh criticism of his position on the death penalty has become a “distraction” and would continue to be a source of controversy. In reality, this position has infected the leadership and the culture of the office.
Mr. Cox is the Acting District Attorney because he was First Assistant, because he was a vital part of that office. He is part of the culture that acquired machine guns and that even today allows attorneys for the office to carry firearms in courtrooms, as though the Sheriff is not able to provide adequate security in the courthouse.
So, while we welcome Mr. Cox’s decision not to seek election, what is needed here is serious cultural change in the office. That kind of change cannot be achieved by electing anyone with any current or past association with the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office.
Real and meaningful change in the culture of the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office will come about only when an outsider, experienced in prosecution and defense, who is willing to both advance and protect the rights of ordinary Americans is elected to the office.
I am the person who will lead that change.”
At this stage in the election cycle, name recognition for the other candidates is the first priority. Judge James Stewart has enhanced his name by simply sitting back and allowing others to speculate about his decision to run. The path to the October primary will be full of advertising flyers, push cards, billboards, bus benches and money spread to encourage voters to participate. This election is one of the most important Caddo citizens have to replace someone who lead the office and set strong policies of no tolerance for high profile crimes, particularly that could get death penalty verdicts.
Citizens need a district attorney who will assist the Shreveport Police Department and Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator sweep hardened criminals off our streets. Change for change alone is seldom justified, but beating the same failed policies has not really gotten enough criminals to change their ways. The office of DA may have a change in leadership on the nameplate, but too many broken policies remain that require a turnover of a higher order.