A Q&A with a few TDCAA members

Editor’s note:  In this new standing column, we asked several TDCAA members to answer a few questions (some about prosecution, some not). We hope to run this column in every issue of the journal, so anyone who would like to submit his or her answers to these same questions can email them to the editor at [email protected] All respondents will receive a free TDCAA T-shirt as a token of thanks.

Krispen Walker
Assistant District Attorney in Orange County

How long have you worked in a prosecutor’s office?  
Thirteen years. I spent about three years as the juvenile prosecutor, and for the last 10 years I’ve been assigned to the 163rd District Court.  

What do you enjoy about your job?   
One of the best aspects of my job as a prosecutor is that I have the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. Every day I meet someone new or hear something I’ve never heard before. My job is never boring. I also love the teamwork involved in prosecuting cases.    

If you weren’t in a prosecutor’s office, what would your dream job be (and why)?  
If I weren’t a prosecutor, I would love to be a photographer. After a long day in court, I love to get outside and take photos. Composing shots of flowers, landscapes, or my pets takes my mind away from the stresses of the office.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I’ve ever received is to quit overthinking everything. I actually got this advice from my horseback-riding instructor and once I heeded it, I was able to accomplish a horseback riding goal that I had been striving for. I try to keep myself in check and recognize when my mind is overanalyzing. It can be very, very easy to overthink a case when it’s always best to keep it simple.

What was your best day on the job?
One of my best days on the job came several years ago. My jury had returned a punishment verdict of 99 years in an aggravated sexual assault case in which the defendant had sexually abused his two stepdaughters over a period of several years. Several of the jurors wanted to meet the two girls afterwards. The interaction between the girls and the jurors was absolutely amazing.  The girls were visibly changed once justice was finally served for them.  

What was your worst day on the job?
It’s always stressful sitting at the table in the courtroom waiting for the jury to return a verdict.  After a particularly difficult aggravated sexual assault trial, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. When the foreman read those words, the teenage victim, who was the niece of the defendant, dropped to her knees and wailed. Her cry still haunts me.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started out?
When I started as a prosecutor, I knew that people lived differently than the way I had been raised, but I had no idea how differently some people lived. I wasn’t quite prepared for some of the situations that I would encounter or things that people would tell me about their lives. After 13 years, however, the experiences I have shared with victims, witnesses, and even defendants have helped me to better understand the different circumstances of people’s lives.  

What do you like to do outside of work?  
In my spare time, I enjoy gardening, horseback riding, photography (of course), and reading.  I also spend quite a bit of time with my three dogs Charley, Jack, and Pearl.

M. Renae Whitsitt
Hood County Assistant County Attorney

How long have you worked in a prosecutor’s office?
I began working in the Hood County Attorney’s Office in December 2013, so I have been working here for about 11 months.  

What do you enjoy about your job?
There is so much to enjoy about this job. I enjoy working with the people in our office. I also enjoy being able to follow a case from beginning to end. I have the opportunity to follow a case from intake all the way through to conviction. I also have the opportunity to work on the revocation and appeal when those issues arise. It is fulfilling and provides a sense of closure when you are able to see the whole picture.

If you weren’t in a prosecutor’s office, what would your dream job be (and why)?
In law school, I had a list of back-up careers, including writing jingles and being an auctioneer because those things sounded fun. Right now, I can’t imagine a job better than here, but if I had to pick something else to do it would likely be teaching English and/or debate in a high school.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Never to take yourself too seriously.

What was your best day on the job?
It is difficult to choose a best day among many good days. My best day on the job would likely be getting my first conviction in a driving while intoxicated jury trial.

What was your worst day on the job?
The bad days are often related to cases and hearings that I should have approached differently. My worst day was probably the day I had my first bench trial. I failed to elicit testimony to prove up an essential element of the case and received a not-guilty verdict.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I would have known how much I would enjoy working as a prosecutor. In law school, I never imagined myself as a prosecutor. Had I known then what I know now, I would have focused on more clerkships and internships relating to prosecution. Having a little more background knowledge would have been tremendously helpful in my first few months.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy working with the children and college students at my church. I also enjoy running, going to the local drive-in theater, and singing karaoke.

Yvonne Patton
Assistant District Attorney in Travis County

How long have you worked in a ­prosecutor’s office?
Eight years.

What do you enjoy about your job?
Rarely is there a dull moment. I also like walking in every day knowing that I am able to seek justice for victims.

If you weren’t in a prosecutor’s office, what would your dream job be (and why)?
I would own a daycare/spa for dogs because I love dogs and enjoy seeing them pampered.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
When people show you who they are the first time, believe them.

What was your best day on the job?
Having a child victim on the stand repeatedly deny being abused after being coached by an unprotective mother, and despite the denials, the jury returned a guilty verdict against the abuser. They saw through the lies and did the right thing.

What was your worst day on the job?
Having a defendant, who was on trial for aggravated sexual assault of a child, disappear during trial and flee the country.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started out?
Working in the criminal justice system requires an extreme amount of patience, and if you don’t have it, you will learn to develop it.

What do you like to do outside of work?
Traveling, reading, and exercising.

Virginia Jones
Grand Jury ­Prosecutor in ­Galveston County

How long have you worked in a prosecutor’s office?
5½ years

What do you enjoy about your job?
My favorite part of my job is getting to know the grand jurors. I have learned so much about people during my time in the grand jury division. Another thing I really enjoy is communicating with victims and having the opportunity to be their voice.

If you weren’t in a prosecutor’s office, what would your dream job be (and why)?
This is hard because I have two passions. I am a competitive runner and have been plagued with numerous injuries, so I would be interested in a job that involves sports injury rehabilitation and biomechanics. I also have a heart for missions, so I would really like to move overseas and do full-time ministry and service work for victims of trafficking, abuse, or neglect.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
It is a simple one:  Be more patient.

What was your best day on the job?  
When I was able to cross-examine a defense witness who was using religion and the Bible to justify lying and covering up an indecency with a child case.

What was your worst day on the job?
When I was told by a man I respect that I might not be cut out to be a prosecutor.  

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started out?
That you spend a lot of time preparing for trials that end up in a plea.

What do you like to do outside of work?
Travel. Run. Race. Travel to run in a race.