Recent high profile cases nationally and regionally have renewed calls for criminal justice reform and drawn attention to the role of police and prosecutors. As the district attorney in Sedgwick County and chairman of the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission, I welcome the opportunity to improve the system by which we seek justice in this country.
Amid these calls for reform and transparency, it is important know that ethical limitations rightly imposed on prosecutors prevent us from discussing the facts of our cases, or responding to criticism lodged against our offices concerning decisions we make in specific cases.
It is important to remember that as prosecutors we represent the people of our jurisdiction, not an individual client. Our obligation is to seek the truth and pursue justice, not win at all costs. Police bring cases to our offices at the conclusion of their investigation. It is our responsibility to determine whether charges can be successfully prosecuted with admissible evidence. What do the forensics, the statements, video or photos tell us? This takes time and occasionally additional investigation to make an informed decision.
But in no event, can the race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or political/professional connections of the accused or the victim play a role in our decisions.
Prosecutors are elected locally so people can judge for themselves whether the person they elected to represent them lives up to the ideals of the office in their daily work. Not just in one case, but day after day, case after case.
Marc Bennett, Wichita