Fifth Judicial District Attorney race: Scott Turner touts courtroom record & qualifications
Ryan Summerlin October 17, 2012
Fifth Judicial District Attorney candidate Scott Turner says he’s got the results inside and outside the courtroom, something he feels gives him the leg-up over his opponent, Bruce Brown. “I’m running based on my leadership and experience,” he said. “I’ve got experience that (opponent Bruce Brown) can’t match.” When it comes to experience, Turner, a Republican, points to his resume: more than 20 years in criminal law, including nine as a prosecuting attorney; more than 100 jury trials, including a dozen homicide cases; collaboration with law enforcement, victim advocacy groups and social services agencies throughout the district; and time handling the office’s budget and supervising employees.Among his roles as a leader, Turner counts his time at his current job as chief deputy district attorney, a position on the governing board of the Colorado District Attorney’s Council, president of Clear Creek Victim Advocates and a role in the Colorado Victim Information and Notification Everyday – which helps victims obtain information about the custody status of jail inmates – as points for voters to look at. “If people vote on experience and qualifications, then everybody I’ve talked to tells me, it’s a clear choice,” Turner said.
Turner spent time as a criminal defense lawyer at a practice he ran in Missouri, but said his heart lies with the prosecution. If he doesn’t win the title of district attorney, Turner said he’ll have to leave Summit County to pursue prosecution. “I enjoy prosecution more because I enjoy being on the side of justice, being the protector of the people,” he said. “A prosecutor is the only person in the courtroom who is actually concerned with the truth.” As a prosecutor, Turner is proud of his work on the last homicide case in Clear Creek County, in which the defendant was sentenced to life in prison; and an attempted homicide case in Eagle County, where the defendant received 42 years in prison. While he said those are only a few examples, for both, Turner said “it was very rewarding for me to be there when the jury came back with a guilty verdict.” Turner admits his record isn’t perfect, and said that while he doesn’t keep score, he wins “most of my cases.””I stand by my record of wins and losses. I certainly haven’t won every case, nor do I expect to win every case,” he said. “Show me a prosecutor who keeps track of how many cases he wins and I will show you a prosecutor who’s more interested in himself than in doing the right thing.” Among the cases he has lost that sticks out, Turner talked about an Eagle County sex assault case involving a child where the jury came back not guilty. Turner said 78 percent of sex assault cases don’t have physical evidence, so they’re tough to convict on, but that “doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.” Brown has said that the current office loses 60 percent of its sex assault cases, but Turner counters that the figure is still below the statewide average of 75 percent. “(Brown) has never said exactly how he’s going to guarantee a better result. Take the easy cases to trial? Refuse to prosecute the tough cases? And, how does he propose to do this as he’s never prosecuted a single sex assault case? I have put sex offenders behind bars for hundreds of years over my career,” Turner said. “He has the words, I have the results.”
Turner has worked under five district attorneys, and said he differs from his current boss, Mark Hurlbert, in that Turner is more of a fan of restorative justice, in terms of mediation. If elected, that’s a program he would enact as soon as possible. In terms of similarities to Hurlbert, Turner said they’re both in agreement that the prosecution is about doing “the right thing,” even in defiance of public opinion. “It’s about doing the right thing for the victim, for the public, and sometimes, for the defendant,” Turner said. “Those three don’t always mesh.” Hurlbert says Turner would make a great district attorney. “He has the experience with the prosecution, the budget and experience managing people, and I think he would serve the people of the district well,” Hurlbert said. Turner grew up in Kansas City, Mo., and has been married to his wife, Gina, for 22 years. Most of his family lives in his hometown, as does his wife, who is taking care of her mother. In his spare time, Turner enjoys hiking and photography. “One thing I’ve learned from talking to people across all four counties is they can’t imagine why somebody who has never been a prosecutor would want the job. I’ve been training toward this position … working with community partners, working with the budget, working within the office and working across all four counties to make sure the services that the district attorney’s office can provide are provided,” Turner said. “That is simply experience that my opponent does not have.”