Vote 2004: Two District Attorney Candidates with Differing Vision for Office - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

03/01/04 - Tyler

Vote 2004: Two District Attorney Candidates with Differing Vision for Office

They're two lawyers with common backgrounds, but Alicia Cashell and Matt Bingham disagree on the direction Smith County's D.A.'s office is heading.

Cashell: "I don't think we should ever stand still and say, OK, we're good enough."

Bingham: "I stepped into the office and began running it with less than 24 hours notice."

Acting District Attorney Matt Bingham has been in charge of the office since Jack Skeen was appointed to District Judge last October. He grew up in Austin and is a graduate of the University of Tulsa Law School.   He's been an Assistant D.A. in Smith County since 1995.

Bingham: "I've been getting maximum verdicts and life sentences. The guys that work with me and the gals who work with me have stayed with me through these hard times."

Alicia Cashell was born in Huntington and is a graduate of South Texas College of Law.  She is married to a Tyler Police Officer and was an Assistant Smith County D.A.. for eight years.  Now in private practice, she says the department needs a change.

Cashell: "In the last two years, there have been thirty people to leave the DA's office. Nineteen of those were prosecutors. That's a problem, and we need to do something to keep experienced prosecutors here."

Bingham says through the biggest change in leadership in more than a decade, his staff has stuck by him.

"There has been no turnover since I've been acting district attorney. In four months, not one person has left. I think that says a lot here, because they've banded together not knowing what's going to happen in this office."

Staff aside... the number of people entering the criminal justice system is rising. Jail space is scant, caseload is high.

"Pre-Trial Diversion" is a considered a type of probation where intervention and rehabilitation strategies are used to steer offenders in the right direction.   The offender never appears in court. Cashell wants to implement it.

"Houston... Dallas... those areas would be completely buried under the caseload if they didn't use some form of pre-trial diversion, and Smith County is quickly gaining on them in the numbers of cases we're accepting daily."

But Bingham disagrees with the plan: "Either the person did it, or they didn't. If they didn't do it, then don't prosecute them. If they did it, they need to go before a court they need to be put under conditions of probation with the court."

Election Day is a week from Tuesday.

Bingham: "For eight years, I've given everything 24 hours a day, seven days a week to this office. And I've gotten great results."

Cashell: "I bring to the department, integrity. I bring to the department very strong family values, very strong community values."

Both say they will lead the office from day one. 

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