October 17, 2009
In recent months, there’s been a lot of buzz about Assistant District Attorney Arnold Mordkin. The Aspen Times, in fact, ran an editorial about Mordkin this past summer titled “Ready, Fire, Aim,” in which the prosecutor himself is accused of being an “over-charger” and even a “grandstander.”
So why, exactly, do these charges warrant such notable public concern? It all comes down to dollars and cents, frankly. It’s expensive to put someone behind bars, and even more expensive to keep them there. When it comes to criminal trial proceedings, the damage literally skyrockets – ranging sometimes into the tens of thousands of dollars.
The problem, and the public’s concern, is that Arnold is not the one who’s footing the bill for judiciary ventures. We are. Yes, as taxpayers, we are eternally constrained to cover the costs of feeding, clothing and housing inmates. Our tax dollars pay for the public defenders, the judges and the juries. And, of course, it’s our duty as local citizens to satisfy every last dollar of Mordkin’s annual salary.
And while the outspoken community may be inanely focused on whether or not our prosecutor is an over-charger, the real question is, or at least should be: Is Arnold Mordkin doing the job he’s expected to do?
The answer? Well, that’s not so simple. But upon careful review of the facts, we should be able to determine, once and for all, if Mordkin is the right man for the job. And we’ll do this simply by anatomizing the prosecutor’s most clamorous allegation: over-charging.
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First of all, it’s important to note that over-charging is not the ultimate sin, as the recent press has exposed it to be. Prosecutors commonly charge suspects with the most serious offense that the facts will reasonably support, and with as many offenses as possible. By filing as many charges as possible, the prosecution improves its chances of conviction – should the evidence to support any particular charge fail to pan out.
The prosecution may also overcharge as a bargaining chip to be used during plea bargaining: They can agree to drop one or more charges or reduce the seriousness of a charge in exchange for a guilty plea from the defendant.
Over-charging, therefore, should be considered an invaluable tool to be employed by the prosecutors. It helps to ensure a fair and swift conviction of the guilty, while at the same time helping the courts to avoid costly and often unnecessary trial proceedings. Over-charging is, in no way, intended to convict the innocent or to over-punish the guilty. It’s simply a means of achieving justice in the most efficient manner possible.
So, then, is Arnie doing his job? Certainly. It’s his job to gather and present evidence of crimes committed by individuals within our community. It’s up to the judge – or jury – to determine whether or not the evidence is strong enough to support a legal conviction. So when we hear that a residing judge has thrown out evidence or has even dropped a charge or two, it simply shows us that our system is operational, that our prosecutor is working hand-in-hand with a given authority in order to determine the substantial issues that confront the civic mechanism of our justice department.
Arnold Mordkin is doing a fine job. Just ask any one of the jailed criminals who have had the misfortune of meeting with Arnie’s swift hammer of justice (you’re sure to encounter a barrage of four-letter words along the way). And when our prosecutor’s got the ever-increasing criminal element running for cover, you can be sure that we’ve got the right man to deliver much-needed results.
After all, we’re not talking about an amateur, or a man who’s prone to failure. We’re talking about Arnold Mordkin, a man with vast knowledge and skill in the realm of criminal justice – an expert in his field. Mordkin’s’ not only a hard-hitting prosecutor but also a successful defense attorney and a former judge. So let’s face it: Arnie knows the law, and he knows it well. Let us not jump the gun and take fire at one of our most valuable public servants. Let’s look at the facts, and let Arnie off the hook.
inmate, Pitkin County jail