Archive for Saturday, October 26, 1996

DA CANDIDATES ARGUE OVER CONVICTION RATES

October 26, 1996

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Candidates in the contentious Douglas County district attorney race traded blows Friday over conviction rates.

Dan Owen, Democratic candidate, called a press conference to explain statistics showing that the current administration's conviction rate was last among the state's five biggest counties.

In response, Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney Tonkovich called the statistics meaningless.

In the third press conference called this week to discuss issues in the race, Owen said state statistics placed the district attorney's office's felony conviction rate at 54 percent during the last three years.

The misdemeanor conviction rate, he said, was 29.7 percent.

"I think this is due to a lack of continuity and leadership in that office," he said.

Owen, who is in the last year of his four-year term as Jefferson County attorney, said the statistics placed his felony conviction rate at 75.3 percent. His misdemeanor rate: 58.7 percent.

Tonkovich, the Republican nominee, also said the statistics were not an accurate way to compare prosecutors.

She said different counties report statistics to the state in different ways -- a case that is dismissed and refiled, for instance, might be counted as two cases in some counties but only one in others.

"If you check from county to county, everybody reports their numbers differently," she said.

The Tonkovich campaign also has pointed out that the statistics showed Owen's staff prosecuted only two jury trials in 1995.

One ended in an acquittal, the other in a hung jury.

Owen said the numbers could not be manipulated.

"There are no reporting differences from district to district," he said.

He added that he had conducted 14 jury trials during the past three years, including five this year.

The race also features independent candidate Martin Miller.

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