Jones, Goodman dispute conviction rate in D.A. race

Not in modern history has a sitting district attorney lost in Alabama’s 20th Judicial Circuit, though there is sentiment that Pat Jones could become the first.
Incumbent 20th Circuit District Attorney Pat Jones (L) is challenged by Russ Goodman in the...
Incumbent 20th Circuit District Attorney Pat Jones (L) is challenged by Russ Goodman in the 2022 Republican Primary(WTVY)
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 8:31 AM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -Not in modern history has a sitting district attorney lost in Alabama’s 20th Judicial Circuit, though there is sentiment that Pat Jones could become the first.

But in times where perception of public officials is often that of corruption and dishonesty, even Jones most ardent adversaries praise his Christian values and lofty morals.

Jones on Tuesday faces his former assistant Russ Goodman in the Republican primary, a race in which Houston and Henry Counties’ criminal conviction rate has emerged as the divisive issue.

“The conviction rate of (Jones’) administration is to the point where something has got to be done and something has got to change,” said Goodman, currently a Coffee and Pike County prosecutor who resides in Dothan.

He produced to News 4 documents showing that since Jones became district attorney in 2017, he and his staff have won only 40 percent of trials involving violent crimes. His low point came in 2021 when he lost four consecutive murder cases to begin that year.

Jones admits to the tough stretch but accuses Goodman of touting figures that do not accurately depict his success.

Jones asserts his conviction rate is not 40 percent as Goodman claims---it is 89 percent.

His count, though, includes those who never went to trial on violent crime charges because they pleaded guilty, while Goodman’s figures are solely for cases that made it to a jury.

“Any prosecutor worth his weight will tell you a true conviction rate is really about how successful you are in jury trials,” Goodman said.

Jones believes that Goodman is intentionally dissecting numbers to make him appear incompetent.

Jones praises law enforcement—many of whom support Goodman—for building cases so compelling that defendants fear juries.

“When criminals see the case before them, they want to go ahead and plead guilty and throw themselves on the mercy of the court,” Jones said.

Because of that, only the weakest cases make it to juries and, thus the 40 percent conviction rate Goodman cites, Jones told News 4.

Some of those who pleaded guilty did so to reduced charges that carry less punishment. They are reflected in Jones’ count.

Patrick Burris Jones never seemed destined to become district attorney. His expertise had been in civil, not criminal law.

But in 2016 he decided to take a shot and, among a field of four, Jones emerged victorious.

He inherited an office that had among the highest conviction rates in Alabama, no matter how cases are tallied.

Even Goodman admits it is more difficult to obtain convictions now than a few years ago.

“But what you have to do is after each trial you have to learn from that trial, and you can only do that if you’re in court trying cases and that’s why I’ve gone and I’m not afraid to go to trial,” Goodman said.

If elected, he promises continuing education for the half dozen or so prosecutors in the district attorney’s office and to resurrect the DARE program that sways students from drug use and crime.

As for Jones he relies on his faith, beginning and ending days with prayer and praying with victims and their families.

His moral character is unquestioned---only his legal expertise is a campaign issue.

“It’s always in God’s hands,” Jones said of Tuesday’s primary. I trust him and I know he has the best plan and know what he is doing.”

But it is what voters do and how they interpret conviction rates that will determine the race’s outcome.

No Democrat is seeking the office.

Copyright 2022 WTVY. All rights reserved.

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