Your Turn: Douglas County’s DA should focus on her responsibility, not her power

photo by: Contributed

Former Douglas County District Attorney Jim Flory

As a former district attorney of Douglas County, I am shocked and appalled at some of the recent reports by the Journal-World regarding the conduct of the District Attorney’s Office.

Most recently, was the report of the devastated rape victim who was not informed of a re-sentencing hearing that resulted in a violent sex offender receiving a drastically reduced sentence. The Journal-World reporter’s investigation essentially debunked the lame excuse provided by the DA that to notify the victims would “retraumatize” them.

The victims of those horrendous crimes were not notified of the hearing, and consequently, were not permitted to address the judge at the resentencing hearing and describe the impact that the crimes have had on their lives. While I have not practiced law in state courts for some time, I believe that state court judges still have the ability to depart upward or downward from the sentencing guidelines if they find mitigating or aggravating circumstances. It does not appear that any effort was made to seek an upward departure from the sentencing guidelines. Unfortunately, the judge in this case was not afforded the opportunity to hear the compelling testimony of the victims and the horror they experienced at the hands of the defendant. Perhaps their testimony would not have changed the decision to grant a significant reduction of sentence, but we will never know.

This incident, while egregious in itself, seems to be a pattern of arrogant conduct by our district attorney. Disparagement of and constant conflict with our duly-elected sheriff, chief of police and the judges of this judicial district seem to be commonplace.

When I was a young district attorney I attended a seminar of district attorneys wherein we were asked in a small group session the most significant aspect of being a district attorney. One of the participants cited the “power” of the office, and I can still remember after all of these years how wrong I thought he was. My response to the question was the “responsibility” that was inherent in assuming the office. That thought stayed with me throughout my lengthy career as a prosecuting attorney.

Perhaps our district attorney should concern herself more with the “responsibility” she has to the community and crime victims rather than the “power” she wields. According to the recent article, the devastated victim of the brutal rape asked, “Who cared about our rights?” I sincerely hope that the answer to her question will be that the voters of Douglas County cared.

— Jim Flory served as Douglas County district attorney from 1985 to 1991, when he left to join the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He was a Douglas County commissioner from 2009 to 2017.


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