Gordo native Chris McCool is a district attorney for the 24th Judicial Circuit, which covers Pickens, Fayette and Lamar counties. He’s running as a Republican for Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2. He faces Rich Anderson and Dennis O’Dell in the June 5 primary. No Democrats are running.
District Attorney Chris McCool makes his best case for Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2. pic.twitter.com/Bu0vd0d8FG— The Daily Home (@DailyHome) May 17, 2018
McCool, who’s also pastor of Zion Primitive Baptist Church in Gordo, and his wife, Sherri have four children ages 23, 21, 19 and 16. He sat down Wednesday with the Daily Home/St. Clair Times Editorial Board. Here are 10 takeaways from that conversation.
1. Why are you running? It’s so important to have someone in the Court of Criminal Appeals who has trial experience. We have five judges who look at every criminal appeal, and three of them are leaving the bench this year. I want to bring my in-trial experience to one of those seats. When you’re looking at the cold words of a transcript, you need to know what you’re looking at. I love the law, and all I’ve ever done is in-trial work.
2. Most people are locked in on the race for governor or attorney general, etc. Why should people care about the Court of Criminal Appeals? We need an orderly society, and the judicial system helps make sure that’s the case. My whole career is focused on keeping the public safe. Bad guys need to be dealt with in a system that makes sure the community is safe, and the criminal court is where the rubber hits the road. But the judge makes sure individuals are protected from governmental overreach. On occasions when a case wasn’t done right, you need a judge who can say wait a minute, we need to go back.
3. What makes you more qualified than your opponents? I’m the only one in my race with practical trial experience. I’ve been in the trenches trying to get justice for victims. I’ve tried 52 criminal cases -- everything from hunting on the side of the road to capital murder. I’ve seen it all.
4. What are your thoughts on the death penalty? Personally, I’m in favor of it. It’s a necessary part of our collective self-defense as a society.
5. Is there ever any worry about putting the wrong person on death row? I’ve never asked for the death penalty when I wasn’t absolutely certain the person did it. There ought to be, and there are, safeguards in place to prevent putting the wrong person on death row.
6. How does your running as a Republican shape how you’ll approach the job if elected? As a Republican, I’m a conservative. I don’t believe in judicial activism. Judges shouldn’t try to make law. They should follow the law and apply the law. I identify with conservative principles, but judges shouldn’t be partisan.
7. Ideally, should we have elected judges or appointed judges? I can see it both ways. Ideally, if you can take the politics out of it through appointment, that would be great. The problem is, you can’t take the politics out of anything. I’ve seen cases where someone wasn’t a good judge, and it was good that the people were able to vote them out of office.
8. What do you think of the state law that forces judges to retire at 70? When I was 30, I didn’t mind it. Now that I’m 50, it’s way too young. Of course, I’m joking, but I think it’s a matter that ought to be under constant review by the proper authorities, which is the Legislature.
9. How do you feel about your campaign? I feel good about it. I’ve enjoyed getting out and meeting people. It’s been an eye-opening experience and a fulfilling experience.
10. Anything you’d like to add? I live on the same farm I grew up on that was started by my great-great-granddaddy. We have 200 head of cattle and six chicken houses on 600 acres. The work ethic and common sense you learn as a child carries over into adulthood. You don’t check your common sense at the courthouse door. I’m a firm believer that what you are on Sunday at church is what you ought to be on Monday at work. Do whatever you do with integrity.