Monday Night Politics: Meet the Candidates
Forum features candidates running for district attorney
DENISHA McKNIGHT | 10/1/2018, 1:49 p.m.
Q: How will you go about the decision to charge juveniles as adults?
Johnson: Under the family code [section 54] that juvenile provision comes, and that provision says that under certain circumstances – a lot of people call it certifying a juvenile, but what it is is transferring jurisdiction to an adult court. Now, the only person who can transfer that jurisdiction is the juvenile court judge. That person is the only one who can transfer that jurisdiction, meaning that she’s giving up. They’re giving up their venue, and they’re giving it to the adult court. In Dallas county, we had over 3,291 juveniles come through the juvenile system in 2017. Of those 3,291, only in eight of those cases did we ask that the case be transferred to an adult court. We just ask; we just have a hearing. But, as I said, the judges are the ones who make that determination, and the judges decided that seven would be transferred. The basis of that is that the provision in section 54 says if they believe that that particular juvenile is such a danger to the community that the judge decides if it ought to be transferred. So, it’s only under that basis, but remember the juvenile court is designed for rehabilitation. And, that’s what we do. 3,291 cases – we dealt with those juveniles in 2017, and we even have less hearings already in 2018. So, for the most part, 99.9 percent of them are remaining juvenile.
Creuzot: That was a very good answer that didn’t answer your question. Sounded good, didn’t it? The first point of departure in whether a juvenile gets decertified or transferred is the DA – him or herself, has to request it.
So, what you’re talking about, I bet, is these young men who recently were arrested for robbery, and after a meeting with their family and with the district attorney, there was a statement made. The statement didn’t say, ‘I’m going to let the judge decide over there.’ The statement said that ‘I’m [Johnson] going to seek certification.’ Certification has a process. It looks at the person, the youth, the background and the history and the prospects for rehabilitation. So, those are the kinds of things that I promise you that I am going to start making press conferences and having meetings, which the meeting was OK. It was the outcome of it that we’re going to jump ahead of – the work that needs to be done for the judge to decide whether the case should be certified or transferred.
The ACLU sent out a questionnaire to both of us. That question was in it. I answered. She didn’t answer any of it. The Texas Organizing Project, which fights for civil rights and criminal justice reform for poor people and people of color, sent us a questionnaire. I answered it. That was in there. The Worker’s Defense Union that fights for fair wages and living wages and good working conditions sent us out a questionnaire. I answered it. She didn’t.