Republicans who treasure integrity, transparency and accountability in the administration of justice in McLennan County should vote for Barry Johnson for district attorney in Tuesday’s Republican primary election. Of all our election recommendations in spring 2018, this one we advocate most fervently. We do so not only for the sake of daily justice but also the reputation of our county.
Barry Johnson, 61, is no Hamilton Burger. He’s amiable, unpretentious, even a little unvarnished. Yet he comes from impressive legal lineage for those in the know: His father, Joe N. Johnson, rose from newspaper courthouse reporter to justice of the peace, then district judge.
When the Trib editorial board asked Johnson what credo from his late father he most embraced, he replied: “The most important thing I learned from my dad as a jurist: Everybody’s got to be treated the same with no favoritism whatsoever.” That, along with a vow of due process at long last, lends him a decided edge in the two-candidate GOP battle he faces, given our clearly compromised criminal justice system of late in this county.
His opponent suggests that Johnson is disadvantaged by the fact he has practiced little criminal law compared to civil law. Yet a plaintiff’s attorney in civil cases has strong parallels with prosecutors of criminal cases to the extent both use evidence and the law to press those cases. And civil cases often involve complexities that go beyond the typical criminal case.
The handling of the 2015 Twin Peaks cases that saw 177 motorcyclists thrown into jail on cookie-cutter charges with million-dollar bonds has dominated the campaign, and for good reason. Some of these individuals, obviously innocent, have lived nearly three years under prosecutorial threat. It’s high time to resolve these — and not just for political expediency. Johnson’s vow to scrutinize these cases within 90 days of taking office offers hope justice will finally prevail. Otherwise, we may wonder which will blemish our reputation more: the deadly biker shootout or the pillaging of basic human and legal rights by prosecutors.