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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The People of Oklahoma County Need a New DA

We need a change of leadership in the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office. Actually, what we have in our DA’s office is a nearly total lack of leadership. In his tenure as DA, Wes Lane is frequently absent from duty and provides little direction to the assistant prosecutors who have the responsibility of representing the people of Oklahoma County in criminal cases. Due to the rudderless direction in the DA’s office, Oklahoma County has in the last year seen over 50 prosecutors leave the office, many out of sheer frustration. Lane’s predecessor, Bob Macy, never experienced anything near the current attrition rate during his tenure in office. This means that taxpayers have had to pay for the retraining of new prosecutors who lack the experience of those they replace. These new prosecutors receive only the briefest of orientations, and no mentoring, before they are thrown into their important tasks. This often has led to new resignations and the cycle of retraining new prosecutors begins anew.

This has had a detrimental effect on criminal prosecutions in the county. Current, there is a backlog of approximately 14,000 unprosecuted felony cases in Oklahoma County. Cases are taking well over two years to get to trial. This means that criminals able to make bail are out on the street committing new crimes while their trial is repeatedly postponed. Those accused who are unable to make bail remain in the county jail, at taxpayer’s expense, awaiting trial. Imagine if you have been arrested for a crime you did not commit and having to wait 2 years before you have a chance to establish your innocence. Imagine being the victim of a crime and having to go through the trauma of reliving molestation or assault and then finding out that the prosecutor has had to file yet another continuance because a new attorney has had to replace the one who quit. During this time victims are revictimized, memories fade, and errors creep in to the prosecution. All too often the solution to this is for the prosecutor to plea bargain for lesser sentence. Truly justice delayed is justice denied.

Clearly we need a change in District Attorney. David Prater, a former police officer and prosecutor, has promised Access, Accountability, and Action when he becomes our new District Attorney. He will be accessible to his employers, the citizens of Oklahoma County. He believes that the one in charge of the office should accept accountability for the production of that office. He will take action to fix problems rather than just let them slide. Pious platitudes sounded when election time comes are no substitute action and accountability. I urge my fellow citizens of Oklahoma County to vote for David Prater as our new District Attorney so that the people can finally obtain adequate counsel in our criminal courts.