Dan Turner '94
Partnering through prosecutionJanuary 23, 2024 - Anna Roussel
When Dan Turner ’94 was preparing for law school as a political science student at Ouachita, he never would have predicted using campus as a makeshift courthouse – a pivot during the pandemic to accommodate social distancing requirements – or being honored on campus for his work prosecuting one of the most notorious sex offenders in the state.
While a student, Turner took classes like constitutional law and judicial process from professors including Dr. Doug Reed and Dr. Hal Bass, who fueled his desire to enter the legal field. He was not sure where this would take him in his career until seeing a practicing attorney at work firsthand.
“The second year of law school you get to clerk, and I interned at the prosecuting attorney’s office in Little Rock,” Turner said. “I just fell in love with prosecution. I knew that I wanted to be in the court room; I didn’t want to sit behind the desk and push paper all day.”
Turner has done much more than push paper the past 26 years. Prior to being elected prosecuting attorney for Clark County, he served as a deputy prosecutor for Pulaski, Garland and Clark counties for more than 20 years. He said he feels a calling and sense of duty to the community, not just to convict people, but to help them.
Following his success in the landmark case against offender Barry Walker, Turner was recognized at the local child safety center’s annual banquet for his role in helping bring healing and hope for Walker’s more than 30 child victims in the region. Turner’s work also garnered the attention of former Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who in turn appointed him to the Arkansas Sex Offender Assessment Committee. The committee reviews and approves guidelines for the sex offender assessment process.
“Children are the most vulnerable victims, and what’s awful about that is the offenders are often the very people entrusted to care for them,” Turner said. “I have a strong conviction to prosecute those cases because someone needs to stand up and fight for those kids.”
Turner also was a leading consultant in creating Ouachita’s new criminal justice program that launched in Fall 2022. One of the priorities of the program is to bring working professionals in the American criminal justice system into the classroom. In addition to emphasizing during the program development process the need for law enforcement to learn to interact constructively with the court system, Turner will teach a Criminal Procedure course this fall. He said he hopes that by using cases he has prosecuted personally as case studies in class, the lessons will feel more interactive and allow students to ask honest questions.
“It’s important for these students to have an understanding of how our judicial system works – it’s the only branch of government where all of us as citizens can directly participate,” Turner said. “When we finish, I hope they have a greater appreciation for the criminal justice process and the rights we all have.”
Turner and his wife, Cindy (Staton) Turner ’94, have three children, Abby (Turner) Dean ’21 (23), Cole ’24 (21) and Cate (17) and are members of Second Baptist Church of Arkadelphia.
By Anna Roussel '22, digital content coordinator
You Also Might Like