Jun 12, 2019 Voters remind prosecutors they serve the public – Fairfax criminal lawyer
Voters unseat chief prosecutors in two Northern Virginia counties- Fairfax criminal attorney’s reaction
Voters on June 11 favored reform-talking challengers over incumbents who had previously received the seal of approval/annointing from their long-serving predecessors, in Fairfax County and Arlington/Falls Church. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer who has maintained a sidelines wait-and-see view about how much more good than bad either challenger will do in making the criminal justice system more fair for defendants (I did weigh in against supporting Arlington chief prosecutor Theo Stamos earlier in the primary race against now-elected Democratic nominee Parisa Dehghani-Tafti) I anticipate at the very least to see plenty of existing prosecutors in those counties needing to update their resumes, to see police at least initially regretting this electoral change, and to at least like some of the changes.
Fairfax criminal attorney urges ending capital prosecutions and leniency on marijuana and other areas
With these voter changes of prosecutors, I hope to see in Fairfax (Steve Descano beat Ray Morrogh) and Arlington counties fewer if any pursuits of the death penalty, more reasonable use of the bail system, leniency on marijuana and public intoxication cases, ending marijuana and prostitution stings, and the changes covered below
Prosecutors are obligated to serve the rights of criminal defendants, not only to enforce law and serve alleged victims
Being public servants, prosecutors must not ignore the rights of criminal defendants in pursuing law enforcement and serving alleged and actual victims. The prosecutors are several who too quickly accept police and alleged victim version of events merely because they are commonwealth witnesses, rather than at least briefly listening to the criminal defense lawyer’s alternative view of events and summary of what the defendant and other defense witnesses/evidence will say at trial.
Virginia prosecutors should beware declining bail for no-bond-presumption cases, declining jury trial waivers, and engaging in one-size-fits-all negotiations.
Too many are the Virginia prosecutors who are little flexible about deviating from Virginia’s draconian list of prosecutions that presume no bond. How many voters know this?
Too many are prosecutors declining to agree to defense requests for a non-jury trial, knowing full well that many defendants as a result will plead guilty or no contest rather than face the wild sentencing recommendation swings of juries if convicted.
Too many prosecutors engage in one-size-fits-all negotiations (and in another nearby county declining to negotiate DUI cases down by minimum sentencing thresholds nor to reckless driving), claiming that to do otherwise is unfair, when it is unjustified to fail to recognize that that plea negotiations should consider that some defendants are actually innocent in fact; some convictions and sentences hammer prospects for security clearances, careers, reputation, and immigration law prospects; and some indictments are overcharged but so risky to defendants that they might plead guilty to a lesser charge. This message was brought to voters.
Arrogance has no place among prosecutors – Let this voter-led shakeup be their wakeup call
Some prosecutors are downright arrogant, trying to lecture fully knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyers, talking demeaningly about defendants without acknowledging them as human beings, and sometimes spouting vile and condescending language and attitudes. Some of them act so reprehensibly that plenty of criminal defense lawyers likely will hesitate to return their advice-seeking phone calls nor emails should they ever try coming to the side of light/criminal defense. Their reputations are known, and they are the ones the least likely to be offered to stay in their jobs by their new bosses. How many voters know this?
For voters, the winners’ reform message overtook the incumbents’ stay-the-experienced-course propaganda
The winners in the Fairfax and Arlington commonwealth’s attorneys races focused on reforming the prosecutorial approach, whereas the incumbents and their supporters underlined the importance of their experience and keeping their communities safe. I gave nobody my electoral nor financial support (many colleagues did), because even though I am giddy at the electoral outcome, I am sobered that the winners are not likely to fully clean house nor mirror my preferred agenda. If they fire everyone already working in their offices, they are going to have too little polish and efficiency in their administrations, but the winners should forego keeping the prosecutors who impede justice the most.
The new prosecutors — and all prosecutors — will be wise to listen to the views of criminal defense lawyers, who have good advice and uniquely important perspectives, and which will avoid the dangers of Groupthink.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defense against felony, misdemeanor, DUI, drug, marijuana & sex prosecutions. To discuss your criminal court case with Jon Katz, please call his staff at 703-383-1100 to schedule a confidential consultation.