SAN ANTONIO – At midnight, Bexar County District Attorney Nicholas “Nico” LaHood’s term in office will end.
"I feel very good and I’m humbled about this time here in the office," LaHood said as he finished packing things up in his seventh-floor office in the Paul Elizondo Towers in downtown San Antonio.
LaHood admitted being disappointed that he was unable to serve more than one term running what many call "the biggest law firm in town." He was defeated in the spring Democratic primary election by attorney Joe Gonzales.
The two had become embroiled in a bitter controversy a year ago in a trial in which Gonzales was the defense attorney. That, some say, prompted Gonzales to challenge LaHood.
"I thought it was God’s plan to serve another term, and it wasn't," LaHood said. "What happened was that I ran, in my humble opinion, in a party that just didn't agree with me in some of the ways that I looked at life."
LaHood's term wasn't void of controversy and criticism, from his stand in opposition to vaccinations to his decision not to seek the death penalty for the killer of a South Texas police chief.
"I think my behavior over the four years — and I think it was consistent behavior — speaks for itself," he said. "I’ve always been transparent."
There were cases left on the table that LaHood said he’d hoped to try. Among them are the capital murder trial of Otis McKane, who is accused of killing San Antonio Police Department Detective Benjamin Marconi, and additional murder charges against convicted killer nurse Genene Jones.
"Of course, there’s cases I wish could’ve gone through the system quicker, but the system is the system, and we’re only a piece of that system," LaHood said.
"I hope I did what I could with the authority and the position that I had for the time that I had, to make true change and influence in people’s lives," he added.
That hope, LaHood said, is validated by what he said are his three major accomplishments.
Topping the list, he said, is the establishment of a positive internal culture in the office.
"I believe, and I think the evidence shows, that the people were proud to come to work and know they were serving the citizens of Bexar County," he said.
LaHood listed the establishment of a Conviction Integrity Unit as his second major accomplishment.
"We have to get it right," he said. "Our oath is to ensure that justice is done, and that means, 'Did we get it right?' ... 'Were the right people accused?' And 'Was the right punishment imposed?'"
The child abuse unit, he said, is also a proud accomplishment.
"Everybody knows that I believe children are a gift from the Lord and they’re our future," he said.
LaHood said he plans to return to private practice as a defense attorney, forming a partnership with attorneys Jay Norton and Jason Goss. He said that they would be available to the new DA, if asked, to assist in the Genene Jones trial.
"We will present ourselves, and offer ourselves, as special prosecutors and work with the DA-elect -- he’ll be the DA at that time -- and we will prosecute that case," LaHood said, noting that they are extremely familiar with the case, having already invested countless hours in trial preparation.
Looking back at his time in office, LaHood said that two words best describe his service as district attorney: "No regrets."