WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.–The first black District Attorney in Texas, Craig Watkins, spent Thursday and Friday at Wake Forest University talking about sentencing and security for prosecutors, just days after colleagues in a neighboring Texas community were murdered.
Kaufman County, Texas District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife were killed in their home last week. Earlier in the month another prosecutor from the same office was murdered while walking to court.
Watkins says he has pushed for security for prosecutors for years. He says the shootings which happened in a Dallas suburb, should get the attention of prosecutors and others involved in the justice system nationwide.
“It’s a wake up call that we need to protect our law enforcement officials so they can go out and do business of protecting society,” says Watkins.
Watkins was a keynote speaker in a law symposium at Wake Forest addressing the finality of sentencing.
After the shootings, Watkins now has 24 hour security as do many lawyers in his office. He says across the country, prosecutors are becoming more and more aware of the dangers of their job, and in some cases it can impact the entire justice system.
“Even when you deal with jurors and witnesses, they may not feel comfortable coming down and participating. If they see we can’t protect ourselves, how would we protect them,” says Watkins.
Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill says he is aware of the dangers of the job. He talked with Watkins during his visit.
O’Neill carries a concealed weapon and says while no DA in North Carolina has full-time security like Watkins, most take measures to protect themselves.