1. Who are you, and what are you running for?
I am Vanessa Velasquez, Judge of the 183rd Criminal District Court in Harris County. I was appointed to the bench in 2005 by Gov. Rick Perry. I won my first four-year term in 2006 and am seeking my second full term in November.
2. What kind of cases does this court hear?
This is a criminal district court that handles very serious criminal matters. These are the types of cases that, if a person is convicted, they are looking at being imprisoned anywhere from two years to 99 years or life and paying up to a $10,000.00 fine or the death penalty, in the case of capital murder. We handle robberies, aggravated robberies, capital murders, murder, intoxication assault, burglaries of habitations and burglaries of buildings, possession of cocaine and other drugs. We also handle cases involving aggravated sexual assaults of children, indecency with children, injury to the elderly, theft, etc.
3. Why are you running for this particular bench?
As I said, I was appointed to this bench in 2005, won my first full term in 2006 and am seeking a second full term because I believe the stakes are high in our criminal courts. The taxpayers, the citizens, the accused and crime victims deserve to have the most experienced and qualified judges on the bench hearing these cases.
4. What are your qualifications for this job?
I have seen these cases from both sides. I worked as a defense attorney before being hired by former Harris County District Attorney John B. Holmes Jr. as a prosecutor in 1990. I served as a Chief Felony Prosecutor and worked there until my judicial appointment in 2005. During my 15 year stint as a prosecutor, I was a Chief Prosecutor in the Special Crimes Division where I was assigned to the Gangs & Narcotics Division, as well as the Major Offenders Division. I was Chief Prosecutor in the 228th Criminal District Court, the 174th Criminal District Court, and the 184th District Court. I also served as a Chief Prosecutor in the Probable Cause Court and was Deputy Chief of the Misdemeanor Division. As a prosecutor, I was the lead attorney in more than 100 jury trials and I tried nine death penalty cases. I prosecuted gang members, drug dealers and other major offenders. Since taking the bench, I have consistently been one of the highest-rated criminal judges in the local bar polls and I have worked to streamline the docket in my court. I have also worked in innovative projects like the highly-successful STAR (Success Through Addiction Recovery) Drug Court.
5. Why is this race important?
Because, again, the people of this county deserve judges who will be fair. They deserved judges who are experienced and willing to step out and be leaders, like with the STAR Drug Court. Experience is everything in this race, and everything in these courts.
6. Why should people vote for you in November?
I’m respectfully asking for votes because public service has been my career for 20 years. I have worked in the criminal justice system because I believe it works. I want to continue to be a part of a system that protects the accused, the victims, the community and the Constitution. I believe my record speaks for itself, and shows I care passionately about the quality of justice our community gets at the courthouse.