Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

November 2, 2012

Two face off for District Attorney

CHEROKEE COUNTY — Incumbent stands on experience, desire for justice

Elmer Beckworth, Cherokee County's district attorney since 2001, expects his job experience and overall desire for justice to help him win re-election against his challenger in the Nov. 6 general election.

The 58-year-old Rusk resident, incidentally, comes highly recommended by law enforcement colleagues.

"He is one of the best prosecutors I have ever seen in East Texas," said Rusk Police Chief Joe Evans, a former investigator in Beckworth's office. "I've worked with a lot of DAs over the years and I can tell you he is one of the better and more knowledgeable ones – one of the very few I would go back to work for."

Beckworth said he understands the challenge of running against contender Rachel Patton, whom he once considered one of his more impressive prosecutors. Patton worked in Beckworth's office from 2006 to 2011, as his first assistant district attorney for the last one-and-a-half of those years.

During interviews at the time, Beckworth praised Patton highly, saying she earned the first assistant title with the skill she demonstrated as a prosecutor – particularly in trying child abuse cases.

But the veteran DA said Thursday he is the superior candidate to Patton because he has superior experience – 30 years since first becoming a Cherokee County prosecutor.

"I gave her the same praise I gave others who have done a good job in my office," Beckworth said. "What sets us apart is my record and my experience. I have tried a number of capital murder cases. Beunka Adams was executed in April. Richard Cobb is still on death row. There have also been a number of murder cases, and cases involving intoxication manslaughter, felony thefts and burglaries. She has had little experience in a  number of those cases and in some hasn't had any experience at all."

Beckworth said he enjoys trying all aspects of district attorney cases, including working with the legislature and the prosecutorial process in general. He helped pass Jessica's Law, toughening statutes against child molesters.

"Our No. 1 duty is to seek justice and I am very proud of what I have accomplished," he said.

The DA said he is very aware of the precariousness of running as a Democrat against Patton, a Republican, in a highly-Republican state such as Texas. But he recalled a time when the political pendulum swung the other way.

"I am not a political expert," Beckworth said. "I am a district attorney, so being Democrat is irrelevant to the job I do."

The University of Texas and UT law school graduate (1976 and 1978), is married to Janice Beckworth and has two teenage children: Erin, 15, and Margaret, 17.

He was recently named Texas Prosecutor of the Year by the Texas & Southwest Cattle Raiser Association, an honor that recognized him as a general trail blazer in terms of prosecution of rural cases.

The TSCRA award was specific to some major cattle theft cases Beckworth worked.  

"An individual had to go to Kuwait and left his cattle with a friend – or someone he thought was a friend," the DA said. "When he returned he realized his cattle were gone and the 'friend' had been showing him cattle that belonged to others. The 'friend' ended up getting 32 years in prison."

The district attorney's former boss has nothing but praise for him. Charles Holcomb was Cherokee DA himself for 12 years before going on to be a judge on the Tyler Court of Appeals for six years and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for the last 10 years.

Holcomb especially remembered Beckworth being excellent at handling appeals.

"Elmer worked for me as a prosecutor for almost all of those 12 years," Holcomb said. "I'm proud of him. He did a great job then and he's doing a great job now as DA."

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