Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories about political forums held this week in Nacogdoches. A third installment will run Sunday.
District attorney candidate Rey Morin called for an overhaul of the prosecutors’ office while Assistant District Attorney Andrew Jones presented plans for building on what already works for the local court system during a candidate forum Thursday.
In a debate somewhat reminiscent of closing arguments in a trial, the candidates presented their opposing cases but not without finding common ground. Jones and Morin both want to see more defendants go to trial in the Nacogdoches County Courthouse.
“I’m shocked that in two years we’ve only tried 10 felony cases,” Morin told voters gathered for Thursday’s forum sponsored by the Nacogdoches Police Association.
A more efficiently run office, Jones said, would lead to more trials. Currently the county’s four top prosecutors are split between the 145th and 420th District Courts. Each attorney handles 25% of the caseload.
Jones called for a “two-chair” system in which two attorneys work to prepare cases for trial, and the district attorney and a top assistant focus mainly on trial work.
“There are a lot of good things going on in the DA’s office and I want to take that and build with it,” Jones said.
Morin suggested a system in which the two most senior attorneys prosecute the most serious cases — capital, first- and second-degree felonies — while the junior prosecutors take on state jail felonies and civil forfeitures.
More trials, Morin said, would allow residents to show criminals what is and what is now allowable in Nacogdoches County.
“When you try more cases, then the community is deciding what is right here in Nacogdoches,” Morin said. “Y’all need to make the decision of what is right.”
Morin also stressed building better relationships with law enforcement, while Jones said the DA’s office already has strong relationships with local officers.
“My favorite part of the job is working with law enforcement,” Jones said.
Morin, who has been an attorney since 1994, spent much of the forum stressing his experience in prosecution. Before going into private practice, Morin worked as an assistant district attorney near San Antonio and as a federal prosecutor. He’s been a defense attorney in Nacogdoches since 2013.
“I don’t defend anybody’s conduct,” Morin said. “I represent them and make sure all of the procedural practice is done correctly and constitutional rights are not violated.”
Jones has been an attorney since 2014.
“It is not about the amount of time you have been practicing law; it’s what you have done in that time,” Jones said.