Paul Burka is reporting that Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle may be retiring. Burka says that “a DA is supposed to be the conscience of the community”, which brings up the issue of how the next district attorney should handle death penalty cases in a county where probably a big majority believe that the death penalty system in Texas is broken. The next DA in Travis County should reflect the community’s feelings on the death penalty and say that the death penalty is off the table within Travis County.

The people of Travis County are very comfortable with life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty. Any candidate who seeks nomination as district attorney in Travis County should pledge not to seek the death penalty. There is no law that requires a district attorney to seek death. Life without parole is a valid alternative. In a contested Democratic primary in Travis County, a candidate who acknowledges that the death penalty system in Texas is riddled with problems and puts innocent people at risk of execution is likely to be rewarded with community support.

More from Burka’s post:

All signs point to Earle’s retirement as district attorney. The first indication I received was an e-mail from a prospective candidate:

Paul, I am writing to inform you of my decision to commence an exploratory campaign to become the next District Attorney of Travis County. If, as I expect, Ronnie decides to retire at the end of his current term, I intend to do everything humanly possible to succeed him ….

In the event that I do become a candidate for District Attorney – and I have good reason to believe that I will soon have that opportunity – I hope that we will be able to count on your support.

The e-mail came from Rick Reed, an attorney who I got to know through Tom DeLay’s successful challenge to his indictment for conspiracy. Reed fashioned a winning argument but he had a losing court (of Criminal Appeals).

Ronnie Earle has never claimed to be a great lawyer, but he has been a great DA for this town. A DA is supposed to be the conscience of the community, a role too many DAs spurn while trying to push the ethical envelope to secure convictions.

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