Smith County, Texas (FOX51) — Thursday evening, the Tyler Junior College Paralegal and Public Administration Programs along with the Criminal Justice Student Association will host a debate between candidates running for Smith County District Attorney and the 321st District Judge.
Incumbent DA Matt Bingham will go head to head against challenged Austin Reeve Jackson.
The two will square off beginning at 7:00 p.m., in the Apache Room at the Rogers Student Center on the campus of TJC. They will answer questions that have been developed by students at the junior college.
Faculty moderators include Jason Waller and James Leder while student moderators are Carlos Gonzalez and Billy Kaytar.
The debates are free and open to the public. Doors will open at 6:00 p.m.
Matt Bingham is the conservative Republican candidate ready to continue serving the people of Smith County as their Criminal District Attorney. Matt is well-known in the criminal justice system for being fair, but tough on crime. With almost eighteen years' service as an experienced and skilled prosecutor, Matt has the background, qualifications, and experience to ensure that justice is done in Smith County. In 1995, Matt started as an entry-level misdemeanor prosecutor in Smith County. Through hard work and constant dedication to crime victims, law enforcement, and the people of this county, Matt rose through the ranks of the D.A.'s Office to eventually become the District Attorney.
Matt enjoys an outstanding personal and working relationship with Smith County law enforcement. He is honored to have the support and endorsement of Gary Swindle, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith, Troup Police Chief Pat Hendrix, Craig Shelton, Constable John Smith, Constable Ken Bibby, and many other hard-working men and women in Smith County law enforcement.
As an Assistant District Attorney and the District Attorney of Smith County, Matt has handled tens of thousands of criminal cases and successfully prosecuted before a jury of Smith County citizens over 150 felony cases, including thefts, burglaries, possessions and distributions of drugs, sexual assaults, aggravated sexual assaults of children, murders, and capital murders. He has prosecuted the most violent offenders in Smith County. Matt has successfully prosecuted before a jury twenty-seven murder and capital murder cases, receiving numerous Life sentences and six Death Penalty verdicts. His experience and trial skills have ensured that the criminals are held accountable for their actions, and that the victims of crime receive justice.
Matt graduated from Baylor University with a BBA in Finance in 1989. After graduating from Baylor, Matt earned his law degree from the University of Tulsa in 1992. Upon graduation from law school, Matt worked for Republican United States Congressman Sam Johnson, Third District of Texas, as a Legislative Assistant. After leaving Congressman Johnson's office, Matt went to work in the District Attorney's Office in Potter County as a felony prosecutor. In 1995, Matt accepted a job as a misdemeanor prosecutor in Smith County, working for then District Attorney Jack Skeen, Jr. Matt was very successful as a misdemeanor prosecutor, and quickly rose through the ranks to become a first-chair felony prosecutor, having been assigned to all three of the felony district courts.
In 1999, Matt was selected as one of six prosecutors state-wide to serve as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, on the newly initiated Project Exile. This program was initiated by then Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, and then Governor George Bush, to prosecute convicted felons and drug dealers who possessed firearms. In 2002, Matt was appointed by then District Attorney Jack Skeen, Jr., to serve as the First Assistant District Attorney. Matt served as the First Assistant until Jack Skeen was appointed Judge of the 241st Judicial District Court. Upon Judge Skeen's appointment, Matt served as the Acting District Attorney of Smith County, until his appointment to the position of District Attorney by Governor Rick Perry in 2004.
Matt is honored to share his knowledge and experience with prosecutors from around the State at the Center for American and International Law in Plano, Texas. He has presented lectures on Capital Murder litigation and Mental Health issues involved in criminal litigation. Matt is often contacted by other Texas prosecutors seeking his opinion and advice regarding Capital Murder litigation and trial strategy when the defendant is alleging that he is insane or mentally retarded. Matt successfully represented the State of Texas against Death Row inmates in the first, and every subsequent, appellate claim in Smith County made by Death Row inmates, claiming they were mentally retarded and ineligible for execution as sentenced by the trial juries. After extensive court hearings, all were found by a Judge to not be mentally retarded.
Matt is a member of the State Bar of Texas and is admitted to practice in the United States District Courts for both the Eastern and Northern Districts of Texas. He is a member of the National District Attorneys Association, the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, the Smith County Bar Association, East Texas Peace Officer Association, and the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. Matt has previously served on the board of MADD, currently serves on the board of the Children's Advocacy Center, and is a Fellow of The Texas Bar Foundation.
Matt is known as a crime fighter, and as a strong advocate for the rights of crime victims. He is a conservative Republican, and a strong supporter of the Party's conservative principles.
Matt has been married to his wife, Anne, who teaches at a Title 1 School in Tyler, for eighteen years. Fourteen years ago, they were blessed to adopt their beautiful daughter, Haylie. Matt and his family are members of First Baptist Church, here in Tyler.
Austin Reeve Jackson is a third-generation Smith County attorney who moved home to open his own business, The Jackson Law Firm, in 2008. Prior to founding The Jackson Law Firm, Reeve served as an Assistant District Attorney in Gregg County, where he rose to become the chief appellate attorney for the office. In addition to his appellate duties, Reeve prosecuted both adult and juvenile offenders and oversaw the County’s mental health commitments. He has also practiced extensively in Williamson and Travis Counties, where he quickly gained a reputation as an exceptional criminal trial attorney.
A graduate of Lindale High School, the University of Dallas, and the Texas Tech School of Law, Reeve has received many legal awards and recognitions. In 2012, he became the youngest attorney in Texas to be double board certified in both criminal law and criminal appellate law. He is the 2013 Smith County Young Lawyer of the Year and has three times been named a Texas Super Lawyer Rising Star, which is an honor bestowed upon the top 2.5% of Texas attorneys. In 2004, Reeve was inducted into the elite National Order of Barristers.
Since returning to his hometown, Reeve has become very active in the community, volunteering hundreds of hours to youth soccer organizations and serving as a soccer referee from children’s recreational leagues all the way through the collegiate level. He has regularly judged the annual High School Mock Trial Competition, delivered lunches for Smith County Meals on Wheels, served on the Lindale ISD Alumni Foundation Board, and participated in several Relay for Life events to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Reeve has also been active in the legal community, serving on the boards for the Smith County Young Lawyers Association and the Smith County Bar Association. As an SCBA board member, Reeve led the effort to provide free legal services to United States veterans living in and around Smith County.
It is not surprising that Reeve is a committed volunteer – his parents and grandparents have all given countless hours to the community. Most recently his mother, Mary Elizabeth Jackson, served as the 2013 Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce President. His father, Alan Jackson, is a retired Colonel in the Air Force Reserve and currently serves as the Criminal Chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Texas. Jack Jackson, Reeve’s grandfather, is a World War II veteran and former recipient of the Smith County Justinian Award, which is presented to the attorney who most exemplifies integrity, leadership, and service to the community.
Reeve is a tried-and-true, grassroots conservative. He has made phone calls, walked blocks, and stuffed envelopes for local elected officials State Senator Kevin Eltife and Mayor Barbara Bass, as well as State Senator Robert Nichols. Statewide, he has worked for numerous Republican candidates, including Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, former State Representative Mark Shelton, and former State Representative Mike O’Day.
Reeve is married to Laura Kenesson Jackson. They live in Lindale and attend Marvin United Methodist Church where they are members of the Young Couples’ Sunday School Class.