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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cash in Colorado

I stumbled upon this and was shocked by what I read. Colorado District Attorney Carol Chambers designated money from an office surplus fund to be used to provide cash bonuses to prosecutors who obtain a certain yearly conviction rate after trial. Putting aside the fact that any government office has a 'surplus fund' in light of current economic conditions, this is a very dangerous road to go down. So much so, that even fellow prosecutors are quoted in the article and question the reasoning behind the policy. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morriessey commented on the unintended consequences of the policy:
"I would worry that if something is tied to a conviction rate, a deputy wouldn't try a hard case that required a trial. We want people trying cases that need to be tried."

Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett states:
If you're to seek justice and yet your pay is based on the number of cases you take to trial or your conviction rate, then it clouds your discretion. They have an incentive not to make a reasonable disposition if they need one more trial or another conviction in order to get a bonus.
One of the most important jobs of both a prosecutor and a defense attorney is being able to competently evaluate what cases should go to trial. I have often said a sign of a good prosecutor is one that actually looses cases- it's easy to take cases to trial that have no issues.  In Colorado that will get you a bonus.

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