Beeson challenged by Caloia for 9th DA post
The campaign season for the Nov. 6, 2012, election is here, and the Post Independent wants to make sure readers and voters have plenty of information before casting their vote.This month we are publishing question and answer articles with candidates for U.S. Congress, the state Legislature, University of Colorado Regent, Ninth District Attorney and the Garfield Board of County Commissioners, as well informative articles about the Garfield Legacy and Rifle sales tax ballot questions.Today we present interviews with the two candidates vying for Ninth District Attorney, incumbent Martin Beeson, a Republican, and challenger Sherry Caloia, a Democrat.The Ninth Judicial District includes Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.In early October, readers will hear again from candidates and issues campaigns when they speak directly to voters in opinion columns. And later in October, the Post Independent Editorial Board will publish its endorsements of candidates and ballot questions.The last day to register to vote is Tuesday, Oct. 9.For dates of upcoming local election forums, watch the calendar on page 4.For an archive of these stories, coverage of campaign forums and other election issues on the local, state and national level, please visit http://www.postindependent.com>News>Elections.
Q. What is your position on using plea bargains to resolve criminal cases? What are the implications for justice and running an efficient court system?A. Plea dispositions are an essential tool in the criminal justice system. Without them, the system would be completely overwhelmed and unable to achieve the orderly and efficient administration of justice. They are utilized by prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges alike. In all but the most extreme of cases, the district attorney makes a fair and reasonable offer to the accused to resolve the case. The offer is based upon the severity of the crime charged, the criminal history of the accused, and other important considerations.The vast majority of cases are settled without having to go to trial. The resolution rate in the Ninth Judicial District is on a par with all other districts in the state of Colorado. Q. What is your view on filing multiple underlying charges against a criminal defendant? What are the advantages and drawbacks of this practice?A. In exercising the power of leveling criminal charges against a person, the district attorney is guided by two fundamental principles. The first is the obligation of the prosecutor to seek justice. The second is the ethical obligation to file only those charges that the prosecutor, in good faith, believes can be proven to a judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt. When a case is filed, sometimes more than one charge is supported by the evidence. It is the evidence that determines which charges should be filed. The issue is not one of “advantages and drawbacks.” Rather, there are two paramount issues to consider: 1. What charges are ethically supported by the evidence? 2. Considering the totality of the circumstances, including the impact of the crime upon the victim, what does justice demand? The answers to these questions determine the charges to be filed. Q. Is the DA’s office making sufficient use of advances in forensic technology to solve crimes or prosecute criminal suspects?A. The district attorney’s office is not the primary investigative agency in the solving of crimes. The Ninth Judicial District has at least 19 different law enforcement agencies and task forces – local, state and federal – that investigate crimes in the district. These agencies are the primary investigative agencies when it comes to solving crime. These agencies have different levels of technology and technological sophistication available to them. The Office of the District Attorney must, of necessity, rely upon the primary investigating agency, and the technology it uses, to properly investigate crimes in the district. This the agency does to the best of its ability. Whatever types and levels of technologies available to that agency, and whatever level of expertise possessed by the agency in those technologies, are the types and levels that the prosecutor has available to her/him. On occasion, if the type and severity of the crime calls for seeking the aid of outside agencies and experts in the private sector, such assistance is sought. This entails significant additional cost to prosecute the case, but it is a cost worth incurring. Q. In light of the office’s $3 million budget for 2012, how can this funding best be used to carry out the district attorney’s mission?A. The mission of the Office of the District Attorney is to seek justice for the victims of crime, to pursue justice for our communities through the fair and ethical prosecution of those who commit crimes, and to earn and hold the trust and respect of the people we are honored and privileged to serve. Although budget is important in acquiring and retaining highly qualified personnel, budget size does not necessarily determine whether this mission can be achieved. Achieving the mission is determined by the character and integrity of the men and women responsible for pursuing justice. They must be conscientious about seeking the fair administration of justice for all. They must be men and women who are professional in carrying out the duties of the office, treating all people involved in the criminal justice system with dignity and respect. These are the men and women who represent our citizens in the district attorney’s office.
Q. What is your position on using plea bargains to resolve criminal cases? What are the implications for justice and running an efficient court system? A. After filing charges, the district attorney learns about the evidence that has been accumulated and where the strengths and weaknesses of the case are. At this point, the district attorney can make a decision as to whether the charges are warranted and provable. Garfield County averages 500 cases docketed per week – too many to go to trial. Plea bargaining is used to gain and expedite convictions when a case has weaknesses, is too risky to take to trial or there are other circumstances or facts that justify a plea bargain. My opponent uses hard and fast rules about the disposition of charges that ignore the facts and circumstances of individual cases. This practice has clogged the dockets of the Ninth Judicial District at the detriment of effective prosecution of serious crime. I will bring good judgment and common sense into the disposition of specific cases and decide the best course of action based on the seriousness of crime and the provability of the case. Q. What is your view on filing multiple charges against a criminal defendant? What are the advantages and drawbacks of this practice? A. Criminal charges vary greatly from case to case. It is impossible to make a blanket statement about multiple charges, because that decision is based on individual facts presented in specific cases and the law. Before filing charges, the district attorney should be convinced that each charge could be proven to a jury. If more charges are filed than are warranted or provable, it is a waste of district attorney staff time and the costs of the trial – your taxpayer money – become unnecessarily excessive. Victims become disillusioned when charges are dismissed. Those resources could have been used to achieve provable convictions against real crimes. The goal of the criminal justice system is to be fair and do justice, not to rack up lists of unwarranted or unprovable charges. Appropriate charges are determined by the district attorney applying legal expertise, good judgment and common sense to the specifics of each case. Q. Is the district attorney’s office making sufficient use of advances in forensic technology to solve crimes or prosecute criminal suspects?A. Investigations of ongoing criminal cases are not available to the public. Since I am not working for the district attorney’s office, it is impossible to be specific whether the appropriate use of forensics was employed in every case. In a few public cases, it is clear that the forensic evaluations offered by the district attorney’s office did not measure up. In the arson case filed against Carbondale rancher Larry Gerbaz, the evaluation was unable to prove that the fire was started by Mr. Gerbaz and he was found not guilty. Why did this case go to trial? In a DUI case, this district attorney’s blood alcohol content expert lied about her credentials and the case was lost. The district attorney has the responsibility to use credible experts in court – more time and money lost that should go to convicting criminals. Using forensic science is only one part of the equation. The analysis of the evidence and conclusion of the forensic scientist needs to be carefully evaluated. Q. In light of the office’s $3 million budget for 2012, how can this funding best be used to carry out the district attorney’s mission?A. The district attorney’s budget has doubled since Martin Beeson took office in 2005. In the most recent few years, the number of cases filed in the three counties has largely decreased. The number fluctuates each year, but the downward trend is apparent. Yet Mr. Beeson refused to reduce the budget when requested to do so. The district attorney’s office is funded by the taxpayers and they have the right to efficient and appropriate use of their hard-earned money. I believe that I can run a more effective district attorney’s office, get us back on track and focus on prosecuting serious crime. The district attorney is responsible to use good judgment in managing the Ninth Judicial District and to use taxpayer’s funds wisely.
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