The Houston Chronicle's Brian Rogers reported today that 178th District Court Judge Kelli Johnson has appointed prosecutors Lisa Tanner and Bill Turner from the Texas Attorney General's Office to prosecute the State of Texas vs. Temple.
To say that Judge Johnson's choice is a good one would be a massive understatement.
Lisa has been with the Attorney General's Office for over twenty years and has been their heavy hitter on tough cases across the State. She most recently handled the retrial of Bernie Tiede, who was the subject of the movie Bernie. Mr. Tiede is currently serving 99 years thanks to her efforts. She was also responsible for trying the actual killer for the murder of Michael Morton's wife. In short, she is a bad ass.
Bill is the former elected District Attorney of Brazos County where he served before retiring in 2012. I spent two and a half years working as an intern for him when I was at Texas A&M, and I consider him to be a mentor and one of the best trial prosecutors I've ever seen. I watched him try three death capitals in the course of one summer and he was amazing in them all.
Although Bill and Lisa are well known for their trial skills, they are even more known for their ethical reputations and integrity. Neither is afraid to try a tough case, nor are they afraid to dismiss it if it proves to be the right thing to do. Popularity and public opinion won't be a factor when it comes to how they will handle the Temple case.
When Bill was the D.A. of Brazos County, he prosecuted the Chairman of the Board of Regents for Texas A&M, as well as The University's vice-president. That wasn't exactly a popular move in Aggieland, especially for an elected Democrat in a heavily Republican county, but Bill forged ahead without concern to public opinion or any external matters. He did what the law dictated.
And he won.
I've always considered him to be the Atticus Finch of prosecution. In addition to taking on the upper echelon of A&M, Bill also went toe-to-toe with a corrupt sheriff where his own safety was threatened, and he didn't back away from that either. He's a man that I admire greatly.
Regardless of what happens on the Temple case after today, the rationale for it will be based on evidence and only evidence. As I mentioned on Twitter, Bill and Lisa are the gold standard when it comes to prosecution and the case could not be in better hands.
Their appointment is an outstanding choice by Judge Johnson.