It’s Official: Terri Moore Joins Dallas DA Office

Dallas: Former Tarrant prosecutor known for courtroom tenacity

09:56 AM CST on Wednesday, December 20, 2006
By ROBERT THARP / The Dallas Morning News

In his search to fill the No. 2 position in his new administration, Craig Watkins went outside the district attorney’s office, outside the circle of Dallas County courthouse regulars and even outside the Dallas County legal bar.

Mr. Watkins announced Tuesday that Fort Worth attorney Terri Moore would be his first assistant when he is sworn in as Dallas County district attorney Jan. 1.

Courthouse observers speak highly of Ms. Moore, who twice ran unsuccessfully to become district attorney in Tarrant County. She has worked as a defense attorney in private practice since 2001 and was a Tarrant County prosecutor and federal prosecutor before that.

Mr. Watkins named Dallas attorney Kevin Brooks to replace Toby Shook as lead felony prosecutor, called the trial bureau chief. Mr. Shook, a 23-year veteran prosecutor, confirmed that he will be leaving the DA’s office.

Mr. Watkins could not be reached for comment Tuesday. In a prepared statement, he spoke highly of Ms. Moore and Mr. Brooks.

“Their combined record of accomplishment in the courtroom will no doubt restore integrity to the DA’s office and provide a safer Dallas County,” he said.

Ms. Moore said she began talking with Mr. Watkins about the job shortly after the Nov. 7 election in which she lost for a second time to incumbent Tim Curry and Mr. Watkins edged out Mr. Shook, the Republican favorite.

“He told me what he was all about, and the things he wants to accomplish are real positive,” she said. “I think his philosophy sounds compatible with my own.”

Mr. Watkins was praised for his selection of Ms. Moore, who is noted for the range and depth of her résumé. She has extensive experience as a defense attorney and prosecutor.

“I think she’ll bring a good balance for the office,” said Dallas attorney Bill Cox. He described Mr. Brooks as a thorough and conscientious attorney.

Many within the district attorney’s office agreed. As a Tarrant County prosecutor, Ms. Moore created the office’s gang unit, and she was involved in one of the biggest child pornography cases in the country as a federal prosecutor.

“Most everyone I’ve talked to is excited about her experience,” said one chief prosecutor who asked that his name not be used.

Ms. Moore said she anticipates implementing a broader open-file policy similar to one already in place in Tarrant County that allows defense attorneys to view the contents of case files.

“It helps prevent convicting innocent people when you say, ‘Here’s my file. You’re welcome to everything in it. I’ll convict you based on the truth,’ ” she said.

Under the existing open-file policy in Dallas County, defense attorneys may view a case file in the presence of a prosecutor and take notes, but they are not allowed to make copies. In Tarrant County, all files are available online.

While touting progressive programs similar to those proposed by Mr. Watkins, Ms. Moore is known as a tough courtroom adversary. She is the first female prosecutor to hold the No. 2 spot in the Dallas County district attorney’s office.

“She’s tenacious, personable and approachable,” said Dallas attorney David Finn, who worked with Ms. Moore as a state and federal prosecutor in Tarrant County. “In the courtroom, she’s a pure predator, and I mean that as a compliment.”

Ms. Moore agreed that she has a strong reputation.

“I do not have a history of being a light touch,” she said. “You know which cases need to be tried and which cases need to be plea bargained.”

Mr. Brooks, a former prosecutor and Marine captain, has been involved in several high-profile trials in Dallas County, including the still-pending death penalty retrial of Thomas Miller-el. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered that Mr. Miller-el receive a new trial after ruling that prosecutors unfairly excluded minority jurors from his 1986 trial.

Mr. Brooks’ appointment could further complicate the Miller-el trial schedule, which has been postponed and is now set to begin the long jury-selection process in February. With Mr. Brooks as the office’s trial bureau chief, there could be a question over whether the district attorney’s office could prosecute the case in-house.

Mr. Brooks declined to comment about the Miller-el case Tuesday.

Judge David Finn

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