Jeff Ryan wrote a June 28 condemning the District Attorney's Office and me specifically. Due to the paucity of cases Mr. Ryan has with our office, his assertions are generally myopic. I would agree with him on two counts. First, the deputy district attorneys who work for you are honest, ethical, compassionate and tireless. I would disagree with him that they are incompetent and inexperienced. Second, I agree that any issues with the DA's office reside with me. As Harry Truman said, "the buck stops here." The rest of Mr. Ryan's contentions are simply wrong.
1. Mr. Ryan calls for a mandatory case review unit. In the DA's office we staff all cases where there is a sexual assault or death. At the staffing we look at our proof, as well as possible defenses and constitutional violations. Mr. Ryan contends we should staff every felony brought to us. In the district, we prosecuted almost 700 felonies in 2011. It is both impossible to staff every felony presented, but is also a complete waste of resources. Many of the cases are simple drug possession. These cases require little evidence. To have review each one of these cases is a colossal waste of valuable and scarce resources and something no other DA's office in the state does.2. Mr. Ryan calls for thorough investigations on cases. We demand a thorough investigation in each and every case. If a case is not investigated, we either decline to file charges or we dismiss. He lays blame on our office for an officer who interviewed a witness, yet told no one. How are we to know if an officer tells no one? We are not omniscient. We conduct trainings for the officers on report writing and ask the police agencies to get reports from every police officer on scene. At some point the blame has to fall on the officer or their supervisor. 3. Mr. Ryan opines that we need to file cases only when we can prove the elements beyond a reasonable doubt. We evaluate our cases at many stages of the prosecution, from initial filing through trial. It is a standard motion at trial for a defense attorney to ask that the case be dismissed by the judge due to lack of evidence. If we truly took cases to trial we could not prove, we would have many cases dismissed at this stage. Yet, in 10 years as your district attorney and over 100,000 cases, there is only one case dismissed for lack of evidence, and only then, after a witness' story changed on the witness stand. 4. Mr. Ryan asserts the deputy DA's are not prepared for trial. This is blatantly false. It is the practice in the office that all witnesses are talked to at least a month in advance, and that includes defense witnesses.5. Mr. Ryan contends we do not exercise perspective. Again, that is wrong. Something I have preached since I became the district attorney is that every case is different and every defendant is different. I regularly conduct audits of the plea bargains given by every DDA. We acknowledge the difference between good people making poor choices and criminals. 6. Mr. Ryan asserts we have trouble recognizing when a victim has an agenda. Victim's rights are of utmost importance to our office. But ultimately we must judge cases on their merits. It is also ironic that Mr. Ryan references a case regarding a victim's agenda when he had a personal relationship with a victim who did in fact have her own agenda.. We recognized it and gave the appropriate plea bargain. Apparently he means we need to look at a victim's agenda unless he is romantically involved with her.7. Mr. Ryan encourages us to avoid junk science and cites DNA as "good science" and psychology as "junk science." The United States and Colorado Supreme Courts disagree with him and allow psychologists to testify in the courtroom.8. Mr. Ryan asserts that we do not train our DDA's. Again, his unfamiliarity with our office shows. Our DDA's attend internal, state and national training. They also train police officers and DDA's from around the state. At some point, a DDA needs to stop training and actually do the work taxpayers pay them to do. 9. Mr. Ryan asserts that we try cases we cannot prove. As mentioned above, the stats do not bear this out. As a former prosecutor himself, Mr. Ryan should recall there are cases where we believe the victim and believe the crime happened, but that we simply cannot prove. These are the cases that drive a prosecutor crazy. In any single case a district attorney can be criticized as either too lenient or too harsh. Anyone who attacks a district attorney's office on the whole based upon a few cases lacks credibility. The real test is whether the DA's office is providing justice on a consistent basis. The Fifth Judicial District, DA's Office, provides justice on a consistent basis. The team of dedicated, hard-working, ethical, competent and experienced prosecutors serves you well. Mr. Ryan lacks the knowledge of our office to assess whether we are doing a good job and his misinformed letter proves the point. Mark Hurlbert is district attorney for the Fifth Judicial District.