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DA candidates differ on key skills needed for office

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Oct. 11, 2010 at 5:11 a.m.


First-term district attorney Steve Tyler, who is seeking re-election to the county office, said success can be measured in numbers.

"In part, the answer is the number of trials that he and his office has. The conviction rate in those trials and the sentencing in those trials, compared both with prior administrations, and state averages," Tyler said during his opening address at Monday night's League of Women Voters candidates' forum at the Welder Center in downtown Victoria. "My administration, and me as an individual, statistically compare quite favorably to the state and even more so to the prior administration. My opponent does not compare so favorably."

During her opening address at the forum, Tyler's opponent, Democratic candidate Deborah Branch, said her idea of success in the district attorney office is based on both trial successes and the ability to work well with community officials. Tyler and Victoria police have clashed publicly during his term in office.

"Now, it's time to have a prosecutor that not only prosecutes cases, and I am a professional prosecutor, I've been a prosecutor for 15 years. So, in addition to doing that, you need someone, I believe, in this community who is also a leader, and a leader is someone who can work with others," Branch said.

The candidates' forum, moderated by League of Women Voters President Kathy Hunt, posed questions to the candidates that were pre-screened for fairness and accuracy.

Some of the questions were directed toward one candidate specifically, while others were answered by both Tyler and Branch.

A range of the topics were discussed during the forum, including the candidate's familiarity and experience with capital murder and sex offender cases.

Branch said she did not have experience trying capital murder cases, but has successfully prosecuted about 20 sex offender cases with an 85 percent conviction rate.

With six capital murder cases and 17 total murder cases, Tyler said he had a 100 percent conviction rate for the murder cases he's tried in the past. Tyler said he achieved a 96 percent conviction rate in his 17 previous sex offender cases.

When asked how the candidates would rate themselves on their ability to work with law enforcement on a scale of 1 to 10, Tyler ranked his office at a 9 for, among other reasons, his ability to file 3,000 felony cases, and go to trial more than 100 times during his nearly four-year tenure as district attorney.

"You can't do that without working well with others," he said.

Branch rated her ability to work with law enforcement at a 10.

"Not only am I willing to work with them, I'm willing to train and teach when necessary," Branch said. "The least I can do is work well with them."

The candidates were also asked to describe what a typical work day for them would look like, as well as their objectives for eradicating gang activity in the county. Both Branch and Tyler similarly viewed the use of polygraph tests during trial cases as an investigative tool that can be used to gauge the validity of a subject's story.

Candidates running for county judge, Precinct 4 county commissioner, Precinct 3 justice of the peace and Precinct 4 justice of the peace were also present at the forum.

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