Prosecutors Desk 12-2-12

About one year ago, I took on the responsibility of the prosecution of a case in Spokane County. It was a conflict case for the prosecutor’s office there and I agreed to pursue the matter for them.

The case involved a Vehicular Homicide and a Vehicular Assault stemming from a car crash on I-90 in March of 2011. The case was investigated by the WSP. I received the file in September of 2011 and filed charges in October.

It has taken one year for the case to wind through the Superior Court system in Spokane County. There have been three different judges involved. Many continuances were obtained due to medical issues with the defendant. Then the judge assigned to the case went on medical leave. Then there were scheduling problems with other cases.

After months of delay and many settings for trial which were changed, the case was handed to Judge Kathleen O’Connor. She is a no-nonsense judge who has been on the bench for many years. She put all of the participants on notice that we were going forward and the case would be either tried or resolved as had been scheduled. This was a relief. It is hard to get 24 witnesses ready and scheduled and then have it be called off and then have to prepare and get people all notified and ready to go.

There was a lot of discovery that was provided. A hearing had been held to determine whether the jury would hear the statements the defendant made to the Troopers. Pre-trial motions had been resolved and we were prepared to pick a jury on Monday morning. On Friday afternoon, the defendant finally decided that the evidence was sufficient and the probability of conviction high enough that she entered a plea of guilty to the Vehicular Homicide.

The process of this case through the system has again made it clear to me that in many ways the justice system, which ought to be a search for truth, has in many ways become a game of proof. For each move one side makes, there is a counter move. Delay is the object. Legal road blocks are thrown up. Witnesses get tired of the repeated notices. Things happen.

In this case, the witnesses stayed on board, a judge took control and the case was resolved, thanks to all the patience of the many witnesses and folks who remained willing to devote time and effort to hold this person accountable.

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