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After Firing Her Aide, Dallas County DA Susan Hawk Names A New No. 2

Stella M. Chávez
Susan Hawk, Dallas County's district attorney, at her election night victory party last fall. The Republican ousted two-term Democrat Craig Watkins in a close race.

Five stories that have North Texas talking: Susan Hawk talks – but not about recent controversies; the Texas House has a tense debate; the Department of Justice investigates Dallas County for truancy issues; and more.

Update Wednesday afternoon from KERA's Bill Zeeble: Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk named her new No. 2 today – it’s Messina Madson, a former deputy chief of family violence. She replaces Bill Wirskye, who was fired by Hawk last week.

Credit Dallas County District Attorney's Office
Dallas County District Attorney's Office
Messina Madson was promoted to first assistant by District Attorney Susan Hawk. Madson is a former deputy chief of family violence and past administrative chief over the misdemeanor division.

The appointment comes a day after Hawk made an extended public appearance – her first since firing Wirskye and acknowledging that during her last campaign, she took a break at a treatment center because of problems with painkillers. Hawk spoke Tuesday night at Southern Methodist University. 

Earlier post: Dallas District Attorney Susan Hawk made an appearance Tuesday night, but she didn’t talk about why she sought treatment to stop taking prescription drugs. She spoke at an event at Southern Methodist University. KERA’s Bill Zeeble reports Hawk was asked about the past few days. “Yes, it’s been a very challenging week, but I’m very excited to be here tonight and get to talk about the good things we have been doing and what we are doing in the Dallas County District Attorney’s office,” Hawk said. “I think the one lesson or the most important thing I know is when you stand on the truth you never fall down.” Hawk didn’t mention her back condition that required the medication nor the surprise dismissal of Bill Wirskye, a top staff member. But she did say she wants prosecutors in her office who are at work “for the right reasons.”  Hawk said: “Everyone we hired and everyone we interviewed was there because they wanted to serve their community.” [KERA]

  • There was a heated, tense debate on the Texas House floor Tuesday – about shifting HIV funding to abstinence education. The Texas Tribune reports: “Seven hours into Tuesday's debate on the House's $210 billion two-year budget, things got first heated and then uncomfortable as state Rep. Stuart Spitzer, R-Kaufman, successfully pushed an amendment to move $3 million from HIV and STD prevention programs to pay for abstinence education. A line of opponents gathered behind the podium as Spitzer laid out his amendment and proceeded to grill, quiz and challenge the lawmaker on his motives. ‘Is it not significant that Texas has the third-highest number of HIV cases in the country?’ state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, asked. ‘Does it bother you to know there are people walking around with HIV, undiagnosed?’” [Texas Tribune]

  • A civil rights investigation targets whether Dallas County has been too tough on students who skip school and sometimes end up handcuffed and in court. The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday announced the investigation into Dallas County, its courts and due process for truant children. Some advocacy groups in 2013 filed a complaint alleging Dallas-area public schools are too harsh with truancy rules. The federal review will also focus on whether Dallas County has meaningful access to the judicial process for children with disabilities. County Judge Clay Jenkins says Dallas County will cooperate fully with the investigation. [Associated Press]

  • A report says an internal inspection of a U.S. Postal Service facility at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has found almost 3,000 pieces of undelivered mail. KXAS-TV reports the U.S. Postal Service's Office of Inspector General last month issued the report, which said the unprocessed mail reflected poorly on the brand and public image of the postal service. The report says that once the mail was found during a November inspection, workers put it back into the system to be delivered. Some of the mail included internal postal documents, such as employees' payroll reports and other personal information. Dallas manager Eric Chavez says any reports containing workers' personal information will be secured. A spokesman for the postal service says it apologizes to any customers who may have been inconvenienced. [Associated Press]

  • Explore the unbreakable bond created between two Plano brothers. KERA’s Lauren Silverman reports: “Jude Cobler’s bone marrow transplant changed him physically, by altering his blood type. And emotionally, too, by creating an unbreakable bond with his brother, who helped save his life. For Jude and other cancer patients, a bone marrow transplant is really just the beginning. Jude, a Plano kid, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Each year, about 2,500 kids are diagnosed with this type of leukemia. When Jude's chemotherapy didn’t work, his odds of survival dropped drastically. His family searched for a bone marrow transplant match – they found one in his brother, Joshua.” Jude is the subject of a new KERA Breakthroughs series called Growing Up After Cancer. Explore the digital project here.
Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.