Better East Texas: Checks must be followed in the DA's office

(KLTV) - The Smith County District Attorney's office released the results of a recent audit examining the number of cases reduced or dismissed by Assistant District Attorneys who did not follow stated policy of the District Attorney.

This stemmed from the case of accused state trooper killer Dabrett Black and the revelation that a case against him in Smith County was reduced, potentially leading to an early release. The practice of reducing charges is widely accepted by prosecutors but in Smith County, Assistant DA's are supposed to get the co-signature of the District Attorney or First District Attorney as a final authorization to reducing or dismissing a charge.

Assistant District Attorney Jacob Putman did not get the OK in the case of Black, and DA Matt Bingham stated he would not have approved the reduction. Putman apologized and was disciplined, but now we have learned that Putman and eight other ADA's engaged in the practice of reducing sentences incorrectly one hundred and seventy-three times since 2013.

There were even 2 cases that were incorrectly reduced or dismissed after Matt Bingham admonished Jacob Putman back August of 2016. Now, there is little doubt that the DA or First DA would have signed off on a number of those, but this is disregard on the part of the Assistant DA's to honor this vital check that impacts hundreds of east Texans and it affects people in a very serious way. The report card is in and it isn't pretty and needs correction, and that will make for a Better East Texas.

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