TYLER - Both candidates for Smith County District Attorney participated in a forum on Thursday night hosted by the Smith County Republican Club.
Alicia Barkley and Jacob Putman answered questions submitted by people in the audience.
It was the first time the two came face-to-face since Barkley joined the race in December. Before that, Putman was running unopposed.
To no surprise, the high-profile Dabrett Black case took center stage during the forum.
"He claims to be an aggressive prosecutor, but I had to apologize to a trooper's wife that was released from Smith County after committing a violent attack against a Smith County officer," said Barkley.
In 2015, Black assaulted a trooper in Smith County. He was arrested and charged with a felony, that was later reduced to a misdemeanor by Putman.
Just two years after Black’s release, police say he shot and killed Trooper Damon Allen on Thanksgiving Day in 2017.
Putman admits if he had to try the case now, he would do it differently but claims his opponent, Alicia Barkley, has also reduced felony assault charges against law enforcement officers in the past.
"First of all, to say it was a violent crime that was reduced to a misdemeanor is true, but Ms. Barkley has done that many times when she was a prosecutor many years ago," said Putman.
Both were asked what they would do to make sure trials see a jury in a timely manner. This was one question they had very different answers to.
“Sometimes you can and sometimes you can't,” said Barkley. “Often you are waiting on DNA to be returned from labs. Often you are waiting for homework that other agencies have to do."
"I think the district attorney should do his work with our elected officials to help improve the laws to fund DPS so that they can have the money that they need to test the DNA when it should be tested," said Putman.
Both candidates have one thing in common, they both have experience prosecuting felony cases in Smith County.
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