In last week's Plaindealer John Kissingford made a compelling and passionate statement regarding sexual crimes in the county, understandable concern for safety in our community and a plea for public discussion on how the current national social climate has reached into our county. I share and strongly support his thoughts on these disturbing issues.
But his invitation to pack the courtroom in the guise of a civic right ignores the historical foundation of our justice system, that of due process, the concept of innocent until proven guilty. In addition, the use of the word “rape” three times in the article, a word not in the indictment of the defendant in the upcoming trial, shows a bias that begs to question whether any potential juror reading his letter will be able to be considered as part of an unbiased, impartial jury. This is a difficult task for any county citizen in any felony trial due to our compacted interaction in this county, and especially so in this particular trial, given the fair but on-going press coverage in the nearly two years since the initial charges.
As a two-term member of the Governor appointed Judicial Performance Commission charged with evaluating judges for retention in the 7th Judicial District, I have observed most of our district's judges and, subsequently, have more fully understood the trial system. I can assure you that no judge would appreciate these four cases being lumped together, as any judge would affirm that all cases must be considered on their individual merits regardless of the general similarities. Further, no judge would be swayed or allow juries to be influenced by the actions of observers in the courtroom. The only participants in a trial are the judge, a jury, attorneys, the defendant and any witnesses.
Mr. Kissingford urges his readers to “show up, (and) listen.” Fair enough. But the “talk,” if it is to be meaningful, must begin only after due process has been concluded in this particular or any trial. Only then can a discussion about how the national “Me Too” and “Times Up” movements be a productive step in advocating for the improved safety of our community. However, we must never “rush to judgement” before our time-honored due process has prevailed.
Ouray (Panoramic Heights)