Faith Johnson Won’t Take Bribes

March 1, 2017

D Magazine

By Tim Rogers

The seasoned attorney takes over a troubled DA’s office.

Your two immediate predecessors were the first black Dallas DA and then the first female DA. Does being the first black female carry a special burden, or has that weight already been lifted by Craig Watkins and Susan Hawk?

I ain’t even thought about it. I just jumped into this full steam ahead, getting out in the community, trying to get the staff together. I’ve got all these ideas in terms of things I want to do. I hadn’t even thought about what it means to be the first African-American female DA.

How did you first learn that Gov. Greg Abbott was considering appointing you? Did you already know him?

I did not have a personal relationship with Gov. Abbott. Obviously, you know, I was a judge for 17 years. I think at some point we might have been on the campaign trail together. And remember now, I was on the Texas Public Safety Commission. He’s seen me there.

When you were sworn in, you said, “I don’t want to take a bribe.” It almost sounded like the next word that was going to come out of your mouth was going to be the word “but.”

Oh, no, no. I wasn’t trying to bring it up for any particular reason. I wanted to assure the people of Dallas County that, yes, you can trust me. I’m trustworthy. This office has had some issues. I just wanted them to know you can count on me.

You’re a Republican, but this county is pretty blue. Do you like your chances against Watkins in 2018 when he decides he wants the office back?

I’m running, and guess what—I’m running to win and I have the faith that I’m going to win in 2018.

What’s your No. 1 goal between now and then?

I have a twofold goal. I’m trying to get the morale up, build up the confidence in the prosecutors and my staff. I’m doing my rounds every day. I’m checking in with numerous courts, talking to the judges, making certain everything is good, talking to the prosecutors. In addition to focusing internally, I also want to look externally. I want to build confidence in the DA’s office. Guess what? Nobody wants crime. Nobody wants to be murdered, raped, molested, burglarized. We’re going to vigorously prosecute those who are guilty. On the other hand, we want to make sure that no innocent person spends a second in jail. The exoneration unit, conviction integrity, is a very important unit for me.

Do you plan to prosecute any cases yourself?

I don’t know. I hadn’t gotten to that yet. I’ve never said yes or no. This office is so big. I have so many qualified and experienced prosecutors. The question is what role do I play as the DA. Who knows? I may. I may not.

As a judge, you once threw a party with cake and balloons in your courtroom to celebrate the capture of a bad guy who fled during a trial. Is it fair to say that you’re tough on crime?

Yes, I am tough on crime. Although, I’m also compassionate. That’s what I love about who I am. I love how I have evolved as a person, having been a prosecutor, having been a judge, having been out and done defense work. That’s why I say to people, “I feel like I am the perfect person for this position.”

What was it like to grow up as one of 13 kids?

Wow, that was tough. I had to share a bed with two and three siblings. I didn’t even know I was poor. We always had some kind of food on the table. We only had meat on the weekend. We had hot dogs on Saturday night, fish on Friday night. Only time we had chicken or some kind of beef was on Sunday. Other than that, we just had rice, cornbread, and maybe string beans or collard greens. I figured, hey, this is just life. Although we were poor, I still loved it. My parents gave me more than any riches, any money could ever give me. That was love, family, commitment, dedication.

How does that upbringing affect how you approach your job?

That’s why I work hard. My dad said, “You know, we work for what we get. You work hard. You don’t give people 100 percent. We give 110 percent.” That’s how I approach life. That’s how I’m approaching this office.