Craig: Our DA is off track
What makes a prosecutor or district attorney different from other attorneys? When a prosecutor stands before the court, they, and they alone, are referred to as “the State” or, even more importantly, “the People.”
The notion behind this is that the district attorney is sworn to uphold the interests of the People of their district. While they must have the discretion to perform their jobs without constant scrutiny regarding every single case, they must be cognizant that they, like all public officials, are hired – or, in this case, elected – by the taxpayers of their district to represent them in the criminal justice system. When they fail to do so, the consequences can be dire.
My reason for bringing this to your attention is because our current D.A., Mark Hurlbert, seems to have lost sight of this vision. I know many people are outraged by his plea bargaining of the case against Martin Erzinger, perhaps rightfully so, but where he has really usurped the public interest is in his insane desire to try Dennis Flint for a (get ready for this!) third time.
Anytime a prosecutor fails to garner a conviction from two successive juries, one must seriously question the case they present. Rob Andrews, a member of one of those juries who wrote into the SDN recently, described the DA’s case as “weak” and based on “feeling” rather than evidence. What does Hurlbert think is really going to change in his case when every source has suggested the case presented changed very little in the subsequent trial?
Ah, but now he has asked for a change of venue! Usually, a change of venue is requested by a defendant who feels he cannot get a fair trial because the community has been tainted against them. In asking for a change of venue, Hurlbert is essentially acknowledging that the people of Summit County have heard enough about this case to know he doesn’t have one.
So why should you care? Well, estimated costs to the public for a week-long trial, which this has been both times, are about $50,000. Multiply this by three, and the DA who is supposed to represent our interests will have spent $150,000 prosecuting a case everyone knows he cannot win. This is at a time when schools are cutting extracurriculars and firing teachers, libraries are slashing hours, and many longtime county employees are being laid off. This is simply irresponsible and reprehensible wasting of taxpayer funds.
Of course, this isn’t the first time he has exorbitantly abused those funds. Many of us remember the Kobe Bryant debacle while others will recall a similar lapse of judgment and proper discretion in his prosecution of Tibetan masseuse Wang Kho. In another highly publicized trial, our DA ignored the public interest and forged ahead with a case any discerning prosecutor would have known did not have sufficient evidence to garner a conviction.
The Greeks used to have a term for this type of self-righteous, blithe arrogance. They called it hubris, and they abhorred the characteristic so much that it was used as the downfall of many a tragic hero. It is time for him to hear the voice of our community and resign. I hereby challenge Hurlbert to provide a public accounting for his motivation behind a third trial and a rationale for believing this trial will be any different. Our community deserves a DA who serves our interest, not his own.
Steven is a Silverthorne resident, educator, husband and father of two, and vice-president of the Summit County Library Board. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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