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By Margaret Toal
For the Record 

Walker to be first woman DA in Orange County


Last updated 4/9/2024 at 7:09pm

Sometimes in life, a person ends up where they were meant to be. Krispen Walker is one of those people.

The West Orange-Stark High graduate on January 1 will become the new district attorney for Orange County, replacing John Kimbrough, who is retiring after 32 years. She will be the first woman district attorney in county history.

Being a criminal prosecutor had not been in her original plans. She took a job with a private law firm after graduating from law school, taking on civil lawsuits mostly concerning asbestos. By chance, she got a house next door to Kimbrough. A couple of years later, he called her asking if she wanted the position of handling juvenile cases for his office.

She's now been in the office for 23 years, working her way up to prosecuting felony criminal cases in the 163rd State District Court.

"I can't imagine doing anything else," she said. "God puts you in places you need to be."

Three years ago, she had announced that she was running for judge of the 163rd District Court after Judge Dennis Powell was retiring.

"I was the prosecutor in 163rd court 16 years and that court became very important to me. I learned a lot from Judge Powell," she said.

But she later withdrew her candidacy because she she felt a calling to help crime victims and their families go through the journey of putting a law violator in prison. Rex Peveto successfully ran for the position.

However, she point out that putting someone behind bars is not always the solution. "As John (Kimbrough) always points out, the (Texas) Code of Criminal Procedures says our job is not to convict, but see justice is done," she said.

Some of that justice came in her early years of working with juvenile offenders, both misdemeanors and felonies. Many of them worked out their problems of their youth and have gone on to be good citizens in their adult years. They still greet her and thank her for her help.

Other juvenile offenders, though, don't have such success. "I see some that are still in trouble out there," she said.

During her years prosecuting in state district court, she has gained a reputation of getting stiff penalties against sex offenders and child abusers. She has developed relationships with the victims and their families as they go through the difficult steps of trying to recover from a traumatic experience and go through the legal system.

Her care goes out to even prostitutes, including one who was kidnapped in a van and managed to escape from the house of her kidnapper, who had chains and handcuffs on a wall. The young woman victim received Walker's sympathy and care like any other victim.

In another case, she sent an Orange County deputy to prison for assaulting a drunken prisoner, who had his head slammed against the jail wall hard enough to knock teeth out.

Walker has also prosecuted murder, including a shoot-out involving drug dealers in a residential neighborhood, along with armed robberies, burglaries, and assaults.

"Every case is different, whether murder, sexual assault, or theft," she said. "All suspects are different, too."

"I sometimes think about how I'd like to write a book about the cases that I find unusual or moving," she said.

Sometimes, it appears if prison sentences are not given fairly, she said. For instance, someone with drugs may end up with a longer sentence than someone convicted of murder. She points out the drugs could be a major amount involving someone with a history of violations. Usually, in trials, the jury decides the punishment, not the prosecutor.

And even if Walker doesn't always agree with a jury's decision, the outcome is part of the courts. "It's really a beautiful system, though sometimes it's frustrating," she said.

Orange County is one of the few counties in Texas where the district and county attorney are the same person, meaning the office also handles the legal matters of county government. For many years, one assistant attorney has been assigned to that job, which includes working with commissioners court on contracts and civil lawsuits.

Walker will become the supervisor of eight assistant attorneys, including three assigned to felonies in state court, ones prosecuting juveniles and misdemeanors in county court-at-law, plus the one assigned to the county. The office also has an investigator, a victims assistance coordinator, and eight legal secretaries.

"I love the team aspects of what we do here," she said.

The team includes every law enforcement agency in the county, plus those in state agencies. For instance, she is looking forward to working with sheriff-elect Bobby Smith, a retired Texas Ranger, because she has worked with him in the past on cases.

The prosecutor's job doesn't always involve agreeing with law officers, who sometimes get frustrated with gathering the evidence needed for a successful prosecution.

"We get only one chance" for prosecution, she said. The U.S. policy of double jeopardy holds that if a person is found not guilty in a criminal case, they cannot be tried again, even if new evidence is found.

Walker said sometimes law officers get frustrated by the demands of prosecutors to get more evidence and information for a case.

"Kimbrough sets a high bar for law enforcement to do a good job," she said.

And that's a philosophy she plans to continue. "John has always been a good teacher and counselor and mentor," she said.

During her years in the courts, she has seen a lot of changes in technical aspects. Today, courtrooms have large computer screens that display photographs and Power Point graphics from her laptop computer. Gone are the days of showing 8x10 glossy printed pictures to the jury. The photographs include those from autopsies and crime scenes.

She also finds it a lot easier to get maps for crime scene areas. Now, she can go to Google Earth and get close-up satellite images. In her early days as a prosecutor, the district attorney's office had Mark Ellis, an investigator who was also a pilot. He would get a small plane to fly over an area while Walker leaned out the window to take photographs.

Walker moved to Orange as an infant with her parents. Her father, Bob Walker, worked for Gulf Chemical, which became Chevron. The family was transferred to Joplin, Missouri,when she was in kindergarten and first grade. But when she was in second grade, her father was promoted to become the plant manager in Orange. The family returned her and stayed, even after her father retired.

After graduating from WO-S, she went to Texas A&M University for her bachelor's degree and then to Texas Tech law school. "It was very difficult to adapt," she said about the different climates and terrain of Orange County compared to Lubbock in West Texas.

Her first job out of law school was in Lubbock with the Texas Attorney General's Office working on child support cases involving parents who have not paid their court-ordered child support. She then transferred to the Tyler office before taking a job with the law firm of Martin Dies III here.

Then came the offer of a job in the district-county attorney's office. "I fell in love with it," she said.

That's not the only love in her life now. After being divorced for a number of years, she is now engaged and wearing a diamond ring. She is engaged to a descendant of a prominent Orange County pioneer family, but said he wouldn't want his name in the paper.

They love animals, especially dogs, and have a hobby of traveling through Texas taking photographs of county courthouses. When they began their travels, she was the only one taking the pictures. But she owned two cameras and gave him one to use. He turned out to be a good photographer and they compare the different shots they take of the same historic building.

Walker ran unopposed for county-district attorney in the Republican primary and will run unopposed again in the November general election. She will take the oath of office on January 1, 2025.


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