A Dallas County District Attorney has been accused of violating a law that states all crime victims have the right to be informed of all proceedings that relate to their case.
A report in USA Today described how the Texas Bill of Rights states that crime victims have the right to be informed of all proceedings involving their case. However, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins stands accused of violating the law by dismissing two domestic violence cases in late 2014.
The USA Today report said Robert Schwartz, was involved in a domestic dispute involving his wife, LuLu Schwartz, in 2013. He said he was never notified that assault charges against his wife were dropped.
The charges stemmed from an incident on May 15, 2013, when Schwartz called 911 saying that his wife threatened him and their 11-year-old son with a rifle after an argument about their son’s bed time. He said his wife assaulted him as he tried to wrestle the gun away.
Police arrived and arrested LuLu Schwartz. She was later indicted on two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Schwartz said in the USA Today report he had every reason to believe the case was going to end up in a trial until Sept. 15, when the DA’s office filed a motion to dismiss the assault case involving his son due to an overloaded court docket. Schwartz said nobody from the DA’s office notified him that the case was going to be dismissed.
“I can’t come up with a reasonable explanation as to why the prosecutor’s office in this city, in this county, would fail to prosecute an act of family violence with a rifle on an 11-year-old boy,” Schwartz said in the report. “How do you not let that go to trial?”
To make matters worse, Schwartz said he made repeated attempts to get answers that were ignored. On Dec. 2, he found out the assault case involving him had also been dismissed, this time “with prejudice” – which means the newly elected district attorney, Susan Hawk, is not able to reinstate the charge when she replaces Watkins in January. He said, once again, he was not notified,
The case raises the question about whether the relevant criminal law was followed.
Meg Garvin of the National Crime Victim Law Institute said Texas law appears to not have been followed, in this instance.
“If a decision is being made not to proceed, a victim should know about that before the final decision is made so they can have some input and they certainly need to be notified immediately after the final decision is made,” said Garvin. “That’s by law in most jurisdictions, including Texas.”
Attorneys for LuLu Schwartz said the case was dropped because it was weak.
As criminal defense attorneys we are acutely aware that prosecutors do not always follow the laws of Texas. In such cases, it’s important for defense attorneys to be vigilant because a failure to follow the law can lead to a wrongful conviction or another miscarriage of justice.