331st Court: Who Should Follow Judge Perkins?

A two-man race

Two Democrats – county court Judge David Crain and criminal defense attorney Keith Lauerman – are competing for the 331st Criminal District Court seat being vacated by veteran Judge Bob Perkins, who held it for 27 years.

Crain has been presiding over misdemeanor cases as judge of County Court at Law No. 3 for 17 years. He pioneered the mental health docket as a way to try to identify offenders with mental illness and stop them from cycling and recycling through the criminal justice system. For years, he says, the courts were not "being fair to people with mental illness because we didn't fully understand the illness" or "how that might contribute to their behavior." He says that while it's true that he hasn't been handling felony cases, the "mechanics" of the court are the same regardless of the offense level. The code of criminal procedure remains the same, as do the rules of evidence, regardless of the charge.

Lauerman, a former middle school teacher who has been in private practice for more than 10 years, says that his experience as a defense attorney handling serious felony cases is what makes him the best choice to follow Perkins. He is one of a limited number of attorneys approved to serve as appointed counsel for defendants facing capital convictions, which include the possibility of being sentenced to death.

Moreover, he says he's the only candidate with experience dealing with "every issue" that would come before the court, including the handling of DNA evidence, crime scene reconstruction, and ballistics. That experience is critical, he says. "With the issues you face in county court, the most that could happen is one year in jail," he says, "whereas in the felony courts you're facing 99 years, life, or death."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

331st District Court, David Crain, Keith Lauerman, Elections, Election 2010, courts

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