Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

April 4, 2013

Cherokee County DA considers wearing a firearm to court

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Cherokee County District Attorney Rachel Patton said Tuesday she is considering carrying a firearm into her courthouse – and allowing her two assistants to do so as well – in the wake of the recent fatal shooting attacks in Kaufman County.

Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia were shot and killed at their Forney home March 30. Additionally, Kaufman County assistant prosecutor Mark Hasse was shot and killed outside a courthouse on Jan. 31.

These are terrifying developments for many, exacerbated by salacious current CNN headlines such as “Who’s killing Texas prosecutors?”  

Speaking Tuesday to members of the Cherokee County Re-publican Club, Patton acknowledged these developments have left her pondering what to do next.

“I have not yet made any firm decisions,” Patton said. “I do not currently carry one at work, but that might change. … No one should allow violence perpetuated on them by the very people they are sworn to fight against.”

The district attorney discussed the subject of Cherokee Courthouse security at length with the 30 local GOP members present at the meeting at Jacksonville's Hong Kong Buffet.

Judges, Patton explained, are allowed to carry firearms in the courtroom, as are any law enforcement officials, district attorneys and their assistants. Defense attorneys are not. Court reporters must receive  special permission to carry.

Patton acknowledged that while she has no control over courthouse security in Cherokee County, the Kaufman case has raised concern. Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis did not immediately return a message for comment about the issue Wednes-day.

Patton said while she doesn't know anyone involved in the Kaufman county case, she feels obligated as district attorney to make some kind of plan to defend against it in the future.

In the event she does decide to carry a weapon, Patton said she and her assistants would spend much time beforehand at the gun range.

During her comments to the GOP group, the district attorney also outlined her progress during her first 90 days in office. She said during that time her office has disposed of 178 current felony cases either through pleas or trials – as well as 197 preexisting cases.  

Patton defeated longtime DA Elmer Beck-worth in the November election.

Beckworth, who now works as an assistant district attorney for Angelina County, declined to speculate about Patton's comments.

At the meeting, Patton praised prosecutors and court officials such as those in Kaufman County who know that their decisions and actions enforcing the law are going to anger people but choose to do so anyway.

“It's unfair that this happened, but no one is going to allow violence and intimation like this to stop the work,” she said.

Jacksonville Police Chief Reece Daniel, who was not at the meeting, said he believes believes any law enforcement officer or district attorney who is authorized to carry a weapon should do so.

“I'm a firm proponent of people who are trained to and can legally carry guns carrying them everywhere – because of the protection,” the chief said. “Just because people are on trial doesn't mean they have given up and aren't prepared to hurt you afterwards.”