HOUSTON, Texas — In his eight years as a prosecutor and 22 years as a judge, Congressman Ted Poe had his share of death threats.
“I was very concerned on several occasions, both as a prosecutor and a judge and took the appropriate precautions,” he said.
Those precautions included help from local law enforcement to investigate the most serious threats and sometimes carrying his own gun for protection outside the courtroom.
“It’s part of the job. We’re not dealing with very nice people in the criminal justice system,” he said.
According to the National District Attorneys Association, there have been 13 prosecutors murdered in the last 30 years in the United States, including the latest murders in Kaufman County. But history in Texas alone proves the congressman’s point.
Fort Bend County Assistant District Attorney Gil Epstein was gunned down by a robber in 1997 outside the Houston Jewish Community Center after the robber saw the prosecutor’s badge in his wallet. Marcus Cotton was convicted of murder.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Marshal was killed inside a Tarrant County Texas courtroom in 1992, along with a second attorney who was gunned down in a stairwell. Their killer was executed two years later.
And Charles Voyde Harrelson, the father of actor Woody Harrelson, was convicted of being the hitman for a drug dealer who gunned down Federal Judge John H. Wood in San Antonio in 1979. Harrelson died in prison in 2007.
Congressman Poe believes the latest murders in Kaufman County could be the work of organized crime like the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas or a Mexican drug cartel sending a message.
“They are notorious for resolving that issue, not in a courtroom, but by violence,” said Poe in an interview with KVUE's sister station KHOU. “That is the purpose of these types of assassinations, not only eliminate the investigator but to intimidate anybody else, keep your distance.”
“That’s not going to work,” he added. “It won’t work in Texas.”