Dennis Watkins has been the Trumbull County Prosecutor since 1984. He began his career with the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office in 1971 as a legal intern, rising through the ranks before becoming Chief-Counsel of the Criminal Division in 1979. Currently, he is Ohio's longest serving elected county prosecuting attorney.
He graduated from Youngstown State University in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Political Science. In 1973, he received his Juris Doctorate from Case Western Reserve University, School of Law.
During his career, Mr. Watkins has successfully prosecuted 46 murder trials, and has personally obtained convictions which resulted in nine (9) of the twelve (12) Trumbull County murderers who have been sentenced to death under the Ohio law. He has also won arguments before the Ohio Supreme Court on many of these cases, upholding various convictions and the sentences. Most recently, he successfully presented arguments along with victims' family members to the Ohio Parole Board and the Governor of Ohio against clemency for three of the Defendants that he personally tried. As a result, all three killers were denied clemency, and the sentences were carried out. Jason Getsy was executed on August 19, 2009; Kenneth Biros was executed on December 8, 2009; and Roderick Davie was executed on August 10, 2010.
As Trumbull County Prosecuting Attorney, Mr. Watkins established the Trumbull County Homicide Task Force to promote better cooperation between police departments, prosecutors and the coroner's office in homicide investigations and prosecutions. In 1986, he applied for and received one of only nine national grants for the creation of the Child Assault Prosecution Unit. He also established the Victim/Witness Division in Trumbull County before such programs were mandated by state law. In 2012, the Child Assault Prosecution Program was expanded to include a child pornography and cyber abuse unit in the county and in 2020, the Child Assaualt Prosecution program was further expanded to include: Family Domestic Violence. Separately in 2020, Mr. Watkins re-established an Elderly Abuse Unit in the office.
Mr. Watkins is active in the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association as a member of the Executive Committee, a position he has held since 1985. He also was President of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association in 1991, served on the Board of Directors for the National Association of District Attorneys in 1992, and was a Member of the Advisory Board for the National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse in 1987. Further, in 2010, Mr. Watkins was named Outstanding Prosecuting Attorney of the Year by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and also received, from the Office of the Ohio Attorney General, the Citizens' Service Award. He has been an instructor and lecturer for the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and various other organizations and schools over the years as a prosecutor. He has been a certified instructor for the Ohio Peace Officer Training Council since 1974 and was a limited service instructor at both Youngstown State University and the Trumbull County Branch of Kent State University at different times through 2018.
He is licensed to practice before all of the Courts in Ohio, including The Supreme Court of Ohio. He is also certified to appear before the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States.
He is also a member of the National Association of District Attorneys, The Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation, Ohio State Bar Association, Trumbull County Bar Association, and Leadership Mahoning Valley.
Additionally Mr. Watkins is listed in Martindale-Hubbell, which is the authoritative resource for information on the worldwide legal profession. Mr Watkins is rated in the top category "AV," which "indicates very high to preeminent legal ability and very high ethical standards as established by confidential opinions from members of the Bar."