How is Aspen different from Meeker, Glenwood Springs?
The following is the third of five questions posed by The Aspen Times to the three candidates for 9th Judicial District Attorney. The candidates include current District Attorney Sherry Caloia, a Democrat; Jeff Cheney, a Republican; and Chip McCrory, an independent.
The 9th Judicial District includes Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.
Question: How is prosecuting defendants in Aspen different from prosecutions in Glenwood Springs and Meeker?
We have a diverse judicial district with three distinct counties. It is the DA’s job to ensure that the prosecution philosophy of each office properly reflects the will of the public served. In order to properly ensure that the DA’s Office is properly reflecting the will of the public served, I intend to establish a “Citizen Advisory Board” comprised of citizens from across the spectrum of each of the three counties to provide oversight and input to the DA’s Office on behalf of their communities served by the DA’s Office.
Prosecution in Aspen is more time-intensive. The police agencies are very collaborative and frequently seek out the advice and assistance of my office in investigating and charging crime (this is a good thing). In addition, attorneys, defendants and victims require that we spend more time on each case. Defendants and their attorneys frequently bring additional information on their defendants to consider in making a plea offer. The public is more sensitive to mental health and addiction concerns that we must consider. There are two full-time attorneys in the Aspen office to handle these extra demands.
There are superficial differences between the three. Aspen gets more “stupid tourist tricks” cases. Glenwood, with Garfield County’s larger population, tends to get more serious offenses. Rio Blanco County is rural and has a smaller caseload. While the populations may have varying political views, it has been my experience, based on numerous trials in all three locations, that the jurors take their service very seriously. They want to do what is right and are willing to take as long as necessary to obtain a just verdict.
District attorneys need local knowledge of their communities. Ideally, prosecutors should reside in those towns and have local connections and interests. When I was running the Aspen DA’s Office, I played rugby for the Gentlemen, coached Junior Hockey and played in the town league. I knew people and they knew me, and did not hesitate to stop and discuss matters with me. Back then, Joe Fennessy, the chief deputy DA in the Meeker office, lived in town and was a member of the Fire Department and many local organizations. When prosecutors are members of the community, the people know and trust their district attorneys.
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Aspen School District’s younger students will return to class next week, but that’s not the case for those in the seventh through 12th grade, who will continue to take courses from home.