Local opinion columnists

Questions we should ask DA candidates

By From page A9 | April 27, 2014

I had a front row-seat to the recent district attorney candidate forum. As with most forums, the questions were decent, however, being limited to three-minute sound bites restricts the ability to explore vital issues.

I’m not expecting a re-creation of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, but more in-depth answers could dig deeper into the issues and solutions facing our county. Additionally, having just a handful of select questions limits our ability to understand the multiple facets of our justice system and the role the district attorney plays in them, some which are literally life-and-death matters.

The District Attorney’s Office advocates on behalf of the victim of crime. In theory, it should be championing the ability for the victim to receive restitution in cases of monetary and property crimes and ensuring that violent criminals are unable to repeat physical violence, either by rehabilitation or segregation from society. In addition to prosecuting the accused perpetrator(s), it also provides resources to the victims, who undoubtedly are going through a dark period in their lives.

Within these underlying assumptions, I found myself pondering other questions:

Plea bargains boost conviction rates while not having to go to trial, which free up resources that can be focused on other cases. This theoretically saves taxpayers precious dollars. What percentage of convictions in our county are a result of plea bargains? What assurance do we the people have that plea bargains aren’t being offered for the sake of inflating conviction statistics and in fact provide justice to the victim? Furthermore, are plea bargains offered with the permission of the victim?

What is the policy concerning victimless crimes (i.e. drug possession, prostitution)? If there isn’t an actual citizen claiming they were wronged by an activity and the “violation” is just a policy violation, is it the best use of taxpayer resources to prosecute those cases?

For lower level crimes, is prison the best option, in light of the high cost per inmate and high recidivism rate? Would medical, counseling and other diversion programs be a better use of resources, and provide better results for the community? Which criteria would you use in determining that?

Jury nullification is a rarely known tool that juries have at their disposal when deliberating a case. If the jury feels the law is unjust, they have the ability to acquit the defendant. What are your thoughts on our juries having that option?

The grand jury is one of the unheralded tools the people have to monitor and correct waste and corruption in our government. What is your understanding of the grand jury system? What can the district attorney do to motivate and empower the members of our grand jury to investigate and explore goings on in all levels of our local government?

What are your views of civil asset forfeiture laws? Last year, there was an instance where a citizen was arrested for a perceived crime and had some assets seized under civil asset forfeiture laws. Charges were eventually dropped, but the citizen’s assets were still kept. Is this justice, and what role can the District Attorney Office perform to make this right?

When filing a lawsuit on behalf of the citizens of our county and collecting penalties in successful cases, how do we ensure that restitution is remitted to the people who were supposedly victimized, instead of being absorbed into a departmental budget, or redirected to an unrelated project?

Far too often, elections are glorified popularity contests. We the people should view them as hiring decisions.

This year, we have several vital four-year employment contracts up for grabs. The challenges associated with these roles are often unplanned and require the right blend of creativity and experience to achieve success. Candidates for any office are basically “interviewing” a job. Are they being asked the right questions?

Brian Thiemer is chairman of the Solano County Libertarian Party. He can be reached at [email protected]

Brian Thiemer


Discussion | 7 comments

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  • The MisterApril 27, 2014 - 7:06 am

    Good questions, Brian. Regarding the Grand Jury; it seems its members are either good-old-boys protecting the system or, for the ones who aren't good-old-boys, are constrained by the arbitrary rules that limits the power and authority of members to investigate without the approval of the good-old-boy power structure. If it were anything other than this, corruption in our county government would not have been protected and allowed to flourish for so long.

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  • AnonymousApril 27, 2014 - 12:26 pm

    The Grand Jury is made up of citizens who live in the county and are not limited. Id serve except, I just don't want to and I far from a good ole anything, so people who want to bash the jury. I say serve on it, it's wide open and the ask for members.

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  • MikeApril 27, 2014 - 7:21 am

    Brian you are absolutely right, it is a job interview. Your questions are reasonable and I wish we could hear from the candidates on these. The DR can pose similar questions to the candidates and we can read their answers, no sound bites or campaign slogans.

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  • mike kirchubelApril 27, 2014 - 10:25 am

    Jury nullification cannot be eliminated by any government official. As jury members, every citizen has the absolute right to vote not guilty for any reason. Even if the judge instructs you otherwise. It is our final and ultimate right to ccontrol government from overreaching excess and trampling freedom.

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  • MDSApril 27, 2014 - 12:08 pm

    Actually juries do not have the option to nullify a case according to the law. The jury is given jury instructions and in those instructions they are told they must follow the law. So if the facts prove a person is guilty of a specified crime then the jury is required to convict whether they think the law is just or not. However, there is no penalty for failure to follow the jury instructions and that is how jury nullification came to be. My personal opinion is it's a very good thing. For example there are times when a citizen may kill a person and even though technically by the letter of the law it's a murder, nobody wants the person to go to jail for the act. For example a case I think it was in Texas, where a father caught a man in the act of molesting his young daughter. The father proceeded to beat the predator to death. By the letter of the law the father is guilty of manslaughter and a DA is pretty much obligated to prosecute him. But a jury can look at that case and decide the guy needed to be beat to death and can acquit the father. So I think jury nullification can be a good thing.

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  • AnonymousApril 27, 2014 - 12:23 pm

    Yes they are using counseling and diversion for low level crimes. Yes victims are factored in to plea bargains and allowed to make a statement prior to sentencing. Plea bargains often spare victims having to go through often crude questioning and more emotional harm. Not sure the other questions but these are from first hand experiences. It's not to say the Courts couldn't use improving and the judicial system as a whole, nationwide seems to be more designed to protect the criminals rights than the victims' but all in all from what I've seen of Solano County they are doing a pretty darn good fighting the tough battles and give low level offenders every opportunity to avoid jail while providing resources to turn their lives around, IF they use the resources.

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  • Rich GiddensApril 27, 2014 - 3:55 pm

    Theimer is EXACTLY the kind of guy we should be voting for. The future is the Libertarian Party. All they need is a constitutionally correct defense / national security platform. A question of the DA? "ARE YOU CURRENTLY ENGAGED IN ANY FALSE AND MALICIOUS PROSECUTIONS?"

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