Whit Graves announces candidacy for DA
Expressing a desire to return to a more “transparent” DA’s office that is both “responsive and responsible to the citizens,” local attorney Whit Graves announced his candidacy for District Attorney for Bossier and Webster parishes Tuesday morning.
He said those concepts have been abandoned over the last several years, and he wants to return to that strong foundation once again.
Graves had served almost 12 years with the Louisiana State Police. Upon graduating from LSU Law School, he went to work for District Attorney Henry Brown, who taught him the lessons to be a good district attorney: “to be responsive and responsible to the citizens that we represent” and to be “honest, open and caring.”
Following Brown’s teachings, Graves became chief prosecutor. After 12 years, he went into private practice.
When Brown’s successor, Jim Bullers, decided not to seek a third term as DA, many people pushed Graves to run for the post.
Two years ago, Graves ran for district judge, although people told him they would rather he ran for district attorney.
“Now, after indicating earlier this year that I would again seek political office, I was amazed by the number of people who came to me and said, ‘Whit, we want you to run for district attorney,’” Graves said.
“I examined the potentials. I examined what was going on and returning to the dream that I had worked (for) so long and abandoned 14 years ago,” he said.
Graves said that the two-term incumbent had built a political empire with people in key positions to support him if he ever had a challenger.
“But I couldn’t get past one thing. It kept hitting me in the face to reinstate the lessons that I had learned from Henry Brown about being responsive and responsible,” he said.
That is the sort of district attorney’s office the people want. “And they will not be swayed by large amounts of money or other hollow endorsements,” said Graves. “I want to return to the honest, open and caring district attorney’s office that was abandoned years ago.”
In making his formal announcement to run for the 26th Judicial District, Graves made several promises if elected.
“First, I will reinstate the practice of placing all police reports and memorandums in the clerk of court’s file in the parish in which the prosecution is taking place. … Plea bargains that appear to be sweetheart deals have come to light, and I cannot really say whether they were justified or not because we don’t have ready access to the files. It was a practice that we kept all the way up until the present administration came in,” he said.
“Everything that we have to give as prosecutors to the defendant in what we call discovery will be placed in the file so people can go and read and see if they agree with the decisions we make or confront me with constructive criticism.”
Secondly, he said he will seek to provide the office with a fulltime staff of assistant district attorneys. “We cannot continue to work where the majority of our assistant district attorneys are part-time workers receiving fulltime pay,” Graves said.
“Third, I will prosecute criminals, not hire them. Currently, the chief investigator for the DA’s Office is a convicted criminal, and I will not, will not have somebody wearing a badge and toting a gun under the good name of the District Attorney’s Office for these two parishes,” he said.
Graves said he will also be responsible and responsive to the victims of crime. “Long before the law required it … we made constant and continual contact with the victims of crime. “
Graves said, “Usually, you hear people talking about moving forward when they announce their political intentions. I want to move back — back to the District Attorney’s Office we so long abandoned and move back to caring about the people of this district and keeping them in a position to where they know what’s going on, that our office is transparent, that we’re hiding nothing, and make sure that our victims are taken care of as best as we can.”
In mentioning bringing transparency to the DA’s Office, does Graves believe the current DA is not transparent? “Show me one criminal case filed in the last 12 years in the Clerk of Court’s Office that contains a police report,” he said.
Regarding some of the plea bargains made in recent highprofile cases, Graves said, “They don’t look good on the surface, and we get no explanation. We don’t see the police reports.
“I think the most recent one that I have looked at and talked to the people involved, they went to court on a Tuesday. They left, they went home, and on Friday a plea deal was accepted. They had signed all the paperwork saying they wanted to be notified of everything that went on, and they weren’t. They found out about the plea agreement 30 days later when the detective called them and said, ‘Is there anything else I can do before I close the file?’” That was the first time they heard about the plea agreement.
“You’ve got to be transparent,” Graves said. “You’ve got to know what’s out there and keep people informed.”
Joining Graves in his announcement was his wife, Robin.
How does she feel about him running for district attorney?
“I support him wholeheartedly,” she said. “I have, even in his run for judge, but he, as a young attorney, cut his teeth in the DA’s office. He knows how it needs to run.”
Read Whit Graves’ full speech announcing his candidacy on page 19 of this issue.