PROFILE: Meet Jason Hicks, District Attorney Dist. 6 Stephens, Grady, Jefferson and Caddo Counties

Subhead

DUNCAN - Randomly deciding to take an introduction to criminal justice class changed Jason Hicks’ career path.

Image
  • Jason Hicks District Attorney Dist. 6
Body

DUNCAN - Randomly deciding to take an introduction to criminal justice class changed Jason Hicks’ career path.

It was the fall of 1995 and Jason wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do. He had worked in the restaurant business with his father, Ed Hicks, from the time he was a young boy. At 26, Jason wanted a change but wasn’t really sure what he was interested in.

“I enrolled at Cameron in Lawton and thought the intro to criminal justice class sounded interesting. I absolutely fell in love with that course. I took criminal law and knew I wanted to be a prosecutor,” he said.

Jason graduated from Cameron University in December 1997 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and entered law school at the University of Oklahoma in 1998. What had seemingly been a random choice of a class turned out to be a career that Jason is passionate about. It took him on a path leading to the District Attorney’s office for Oklahoma District Six.

“I know I have a calling on my life to be a public servant. My faith and my calling brought me to the place I am today. I’m convinced that I am where I’m supposed to be,” Jason said.

EARLY LIFE

Jason was born in Oklahoma City in 1969 and is the son of Ed and Irene Hicks. Ed, who set a strong example of community service and work ethic for his family, passed away in March of 2013.

“When I was in middle school my dad owned Taco Mayo,” Jason said. “I worked the drive-through window. That’s where the bus let me off after school. “I always had something to do, either around the house or at my dad’s business. He had Cars, Etc. until I was about 10. I helped him with the car lot. I always had a lot of fun working under dad.”

Ed was the first franchise owner of Taco Mayo, an Oklahoma based restaurant. In 1979, he opened the Chickasha location, which was the fourth Taco Mayo restaurant. “My dad had a major influence on me. Honesty. Integrity. It’s a reflection on what I saw in him – in both my parents,” he said. Jason, who has two siblings, attended Chickasha schools and graduated from CHS in 1987. His favorite sports were football and soccer.

“Dad pretty much just told us, ‘You’re going to play something. Just decide what it is,’” he said. “It helped us stay busy and out of trouble.” When Jason was younger, soccer was his main sport. As he got older, football became more of a focus. “I very vividly remember the Chickasha- Altus game in the fall of 1986. Altus was number one and we were number two or three. We beat them in three overtimes. I also remember when we lost in overtime to El Reno in the playoffs. I met my dad at the fence and both of us were in tears. I was a senior. It was my last game. That was it,” he said.

FAMILY

After graduating from high school in 1987, Jason moved to Duncan in the fall of that year. He became an assistant manager in his father’s restaurant, Eduardo’s. From 1990 to 1998, he was the General Manager of Ed Hicks Ent, Inc. dba Eduardo’s South of the Border Cafe and Hickies’ BBQ.

It was at the barbeque restaurant where he met his wife, Marla, who was a customer. “She was employed at Halliburton. She had gone to Southwestern (SWOSU) and had a degree in accounting.

“At first it was just the usual chit-chat. Then I got my courage up to ask her out in June of 1993. We were married on December 1993,” he said.

The couple celebrated 25 years of marriage last December. They have three children: Jack, 21; Chandler, 17; and Reagan, 12.

CAREER

When Jason decided he was ready to pursue a career outside of the restaurant business, he said he struggled with a choice between seminary and law school. “I tried to decide between the two and the doors closed as far as seminary was concerned. I feel like I am called to be a public servant,” he said.

Jason and Marla are members of Bethel Church in Duncan, where he serves as a deacon. He has also been active as a Sunday School teacher and worked with the youth and children. After receiving his Juris Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 2001, Jason went to work as an assistant district attorney in the Stephens’ County District Attorney’s Office.

He was there for about three years when he decided to go into private practice and became a partner in the law firm of Ellis, Buckholts & Hicks. Jason specialized in adoption law, criminal law, family law/divorce, business law, human resources, and general litigation.

After about seven years as a partner, an election year rolled around and Jason threw his hat in the ring for District Attorney. He set out to unseat incumbent District Attorney Bret Burns, who had held the elected office since September of 2006. He had been appointed district attorney when Gene Christian resigned and then filed unopposed in 2006.

The Friends of Jason Hicks for District Attorney 2010 campaign group organized and transformed the former Cindy’s Southside convenience store building on Fourth St. in Chickasha and turned it into headquarters. It was fondly referred to as “Hick’s Island” during the campaign.

“My daughter, Reagan, was about three at the time. After I would make a campaign speech, I would hand the microphone to her and she would say, ‘Vote for Daddy!’”

DISTRICT ATTORNEY

Jason won that election in November of 2010 and was sworn into office in January of 2011. He told reporters, at the time, that when he first filed for office that he was running for district attorney because his family is the most important part of his life.

He wanted to ensure that they and all the families in the district are protected from the criminals preying on the communities. Jason’s campaign slogan was “Tough, but fair.” “I believe in fairness,” he said after the 2010 election win. “I’ll be a tough prosecutor, but I will apply the law equally. There will be no special favors.

“Everybody will be treated the same. Politics should never enter into the equation of the DA’s office. Society is already too political in a lot of ways.” Now into his third term, having run unopposed in the 2014 and 2018 elections, Jason’s mission is still the same.

MEANING OF JUSTICE

In a recent interview, the seasoned district attorney was asked his definition of the word justice.

After thoughtful consideration, he said, “That is an extremely difficult term to define. Justice is not the same in every case. Consequences should be equivalent to the action. There is no cookie-cutter for justice.”

CASES

In a 2010 interview, Jason said there were a couple of cases that have stayed with him through the years.

“One was when I was just barely sworn in (as assistant district attorney in StephensCounty) the case of the five football players in Duncan who were accused of rape. I prosecuted the entire case. It left an immense impression on me. What I do has an impact on the community,” he said. Recently, he added a few more cases to that list, including the 2013 murder of an Australian baseball player in Duncan.

“That turned into an international news story. Managing the media and inquiries that was a phenomenal effort. It was also draining and taxing emotionally,” he said. Jason also mentioned the countless hours poured into the case of a murdered Anadarko lady pastor. The crime itself occurred nine years ago in August of 2009, but the investigation has lingered. He said the case has been marred by many setbacks.

Frustration is evident in his voice as he talks about the case. He believes it is solved but hasn’t been able to bring it to justice. It pricks at everything that is important to him: fairness, justice and protecting communities. In 2018, Jason told a News 9 television reporter that he will not stop trying.

RECOGNITION AND COMMITTEES

Jason’s dedication and determination was recognized in 2015 when he was honored with the David Moss Memorial Award for Outstanding District Attorney by the Oklahoma District Attorney’s Association. He was selected from 27 district attorneys.

His list of appointments, councils, and committees is impressive. He is president and chairman of the Oklahoma District Attorney’s Council. He also serves on the Oklahoma Child Death Review Board, serving as chairman of the Southwest Regional Review Team. In addition, Jason was recently appointed to the Oklahoma Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Board, which is an early settlement avenue for mediation with the courts.

SQ 780

Jason was not a supporter of State Question 780 in 2016 when it was introduced and, three years later, he is still not a supporter. The question was approved by voters and reclassified some criminal offenses, like drug possession and property crimes, from felonies to misdemeanors.

Earlier this year, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a reform bill to allow SQ 780 to be applied retroactively. Jason has experienced some criticism in the state media for opposing the measure. “The new rules have made it difficult. Every drug is a misdemeanor. There are problems with Drug Court. All theft related crimes $1,000 and under are misdemeanors. We need more certainty in sentencing,” he said.

“It’s not just about certainty in the sentencing structure. It’s also about mandatory community sentencing and mandatory mental health issues. “We need some options for mental health treatment.” The change also challenges one of Jason’s core missions. “How do I keep people in my district safe with the new laws that we have? We have to keep working toward that goal. It’s a constant worry, fear, and struggle,” he said.

The frustrations and drive to impact change just comes with the territory. The results and long-term changes he can help bring about in people’s lives make it all worth it. “When I walk out of the courtroom and realize the relationships that I have with people ... I cherish them. There’s no describing when victims hug your neck with tears in their eyes ... helping victims is one of the best things in life,” he said. “The biggest victory we have is helping families put their lives back together.”