The DA candidates, in their own words |

The DA candidates, in their own words

Name: Colleen Truden

Occupation: Attorney and former municipal court judge for Glenwood Springs

Experience: Twenty-two years of legal experience, including working as an attorney and a clerk for federal and state courts. Served as municipal court judge for Glenwood Springs from 1998 to 2003 before attending McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, Calif., to get master’s of law degree in government and public policy.

Describe your philosophy when it comes to prosecuting and preventing crime.

The district attorney is key to providing safety and protecting our communities through the enforcement of the law and prosecution of criminals. I see the DA as the people’s attorney, representing them and looking out for their welfare. There must be aggressive prosecution of the laws.

The DA must have leadership skills that provide management competence to administer a successful organization, meeting the needs of the office, building partnerships that work with other agencies, municipal, county and state governments, law enforcement, victims’ groups and attorneys to best represent the people.

I see a job where the people have trust and confidence in the elected official ” to protect them and keep them safe. A person for whom the people within the office have trust and confidence, and with whom they have an open and professional working relationship.

The partners with the DA’s office must trust the decision-making and have confidence that they will be treated fairly and supported. The citizens must have trust and confidence that they have a DA who is accessible and fair minded ” one who can exercise superb management skills daily and call upon their trial knowledge to make sound legal decisions.

The district attorney is an administrator of people, resources, policy, caseloads, and decision-making. The DA exercises a great deal of power in the charging and filing decisions regarding the prosecution of cases. Applying the laws fairly and consistently in the exercise of charging and filing is essential. The DA must establish sound policies and evaluate cases in light of the policies but independently on their own merits.

The effective prosecution of crime serves to remove many criminals from the streets, deter their future behavior and the criminal behavior of others.

Give an example of a case that you wish you had handled differently. What were the issues and how would you have changed your approach?

I had a case involving a 54-year-old lady charged with a DUI. Initial review of the facts stated she had failed the roadside test maneuvers and blew a 0.10 on the Breathalyzer test.

This was the client’s first criminal charge. In developing the case, I discovered that a few years before the criminal charge she had surgery removing a bone in her neck. The missing bone in her neck prevented her ” at any time ” from maintaining balance as required for the roadside tests. Additional information disclosed the police officer administering the Breathalyzer test had not properly calibrated the instrument. Further, upon review of the videotape of the Breathalyzer test the administering officer could not get the instrument to function properly, requiring the client to retake the test, during which time he tapped the instrument causing it to change the reading to the 0.10.

Unfortunately, my client and her husband felt it was only a misdemeanor on her record and that it was nothing that would occur again, so they preferred not to fight it. She chose to take the plea bargain instead of challenge the case at trial. The DA in the case was unwilling to review the evidence and discuss the case. I only wish the client would have pursued the case to trial.

Do you think the district attorney’s decision to disengage from the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team (TRIDENT) was the correct decision? Why or why not?

The relationship between the district attorney’s office and the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team is a crucial partnership.

Leadership remains the key issue regarding the interaction between the district attorney and the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Task Force. The current DA claims there were concerns or issues that he was unable to resolve with TRIDENT through his position requiring leadership as the chief law enforcement officer. Consequently, he withdrew the district attorney’s office as a member of the task force.

If the district attorney was unable to provide the necessary leadership to the task force and arrive at agreement on how to proceed, then perhaps his decision was right for him. But how much constructive change can you affect if you are absent from the process?

Name: Lawson Wills

Occupation: Assistant district attorney with the 9th Judicial District

Experience: Fourteen years of work prosecuting cases in Colorado, first with the El Paso County District Attorney’s office, handling misdemeanors and then felonies. Handled felony prosecution in Colorado Springs before coming to the 9th Judicial District in 1992. Seven years ago was appointed by current District Attorney Mac Myers to the No. 2 position in the district.

Describe your philosophy when it comes to prosecuting and preventing crime.

To oversimplify, most crimes can be divided into two broad categories: crimes resulting from a mean, malicious or aggressive intent and crimes resulting from careless or reckless intent.

As a deputy district attorney, I have shown little patience for those individuals or crimes reflective of a mean, malicious, angry or aggressive intent. These are the people who should command the majority of the attention of the judicial system and the district attorney. Statistically speaking these are also the individuals who are most likely to re-offend and deserve the system’s attention for that if no other reason.

On the other hand, those individuals committing nonviolent crimes as a result of stupidity, with a careless or reckless intent are people who should undoubtedly be dealt with by the judicial system, but treated with a more rehabilitative sentence, such as a diversion program, an alcohol or drug treatment program, work release, or a long, closely supervised probationary period.

You ask about the prevention of crime, but please recognize that law enforcement is generally a reactive instrument. The district attorney’s office is not notified of a problem until after it has occurred. Whether this can be reduced with proactive efforts to stop criminal acts is not easily measurable and currently a matter of speculation.

Despite this, however, I have spent many hours in my career speaking at schools, youth groups and talking with citizen groups about devastation that crime visits on not only the victim and his or her family but also the life and family of the perpetrator. I have wholeheartedly supported a program that takes young offenders to site visits at the Department of Correction’s maximum security prison in an effort to illustrate to them the horrible, life-altering result of bad decision-making. I have worked closely with the families of young offenders in an effort to identify the underlying cause of the juvenile’s offending behavior.

There is no greater job satisfaction than to see a once troubled juvenile become a productive member of the community. If elected, I and my staff will continue to participate in educational programs such as these.

Give an example of a case that you wish you had handled differently? What were the issues and how would you have changed your approach?

The case I would most like to have back involved a juvenile offender who presented before the court on two occasions as a relatively minor drug and alcohol offender. At the time the juvenile was adjudicated in normal fashion and assigned to the probation department for monitoring and treatment. However, within six months this same offender was arrested as an adult for a series of violent crimes. He now resides in the department of corrections as a result of those adult crimes.

I would like to have the opportunity to re-address the original juvenile offenses in an effort to see if I could have prevented his adult offenses. I understand 20/20 hindsight makes such recognitions simple and easy. However, I believe in our juvenile justice system and its function of re-directing, assessing and correcting juvenile behaviors prior to adulthood.

I consider juvenile crimes among the most difficult and important crimes a district attorney must prosecute. One thing I have learned over years is that these acting-out behaviors are most always secondary to other family and/or psychological issues. The goal in juvenile court must first be to merely identify the base problem. Then and only then can the courts assist in addressing the problem.

I believe, with some hindsight, it would have been possible to look deeper into the makeup of this particular juvenile and perhaps prevent the consequences with which he now lives each day.

Do you think the district attorney’s decision to disengage from the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team (TRIDENT) was the correct decision? Why or why not?

I firmly agreed with Mac Myer’s decision to leave the TRIDENT board last February at the time, and I continue to agree with it today. In my view the actions of the TRIDENT team in the months leading up to February 2004 were well beyond those acceptable in our system of justice. When the TRIDENT board refused to control and restrict such practices, it became incumbent upon the DA to remove himself from all connection to the TRIDENT team.

It is unfortunate that my opponent and her TRIDENT board member supporters attempted to politicize Mr. Myer’s decision. I supported his attempt to be discreet and respectful of the TRIDENT board in his method of withdrawal. It was only after being harshly criticized by my opponent using erroneous information supplied by her supporters that Mr. Myers felt it incumbent upon himself to reveal the true quality of TRIDENT’s work over the last months.

This situation dramatically points out the responsibilities of a properly functioning Office of the District Attorney. I believe the district attorney must operate as a separate and independent evaluator of each arrest and the circumstances which surround it. This view is supported by the National Prosecution Standards which guide prosecutors around the country.

Occasionally, as in the TRIDENT situation, this can lead to conflict between agencies. It is only through such conflict that abuses are corrected and a proper check and balance of the criminal justice system is maintained. Now, these same law enforcement agencies have drafted a candidate for district attorney which will yield to these practices. I will not.

I wholeheartedly agree with the decision of the remaining members of the TRIDENT board to replace or retrain their staff members. And I wholeheartedly support the role of the district attorney as an independent entity evaluating each case on its merits.

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