I read the letter signed “name withheld” in your May 30th editor, decrying the performance of the Clare County Prosecutor’s office, by a crime victim.
I just wanted to express that the letter’s author missed the mark and had the reverse impact, from what she intended, on me. The Prosecutor’s office is not charged with directly representing crime victims. Nor is it appropriate for the Prosecutor to represent a crime victim, in the way that the writer repeatedly said she expected. The County Prosecutor’s task is to enforce and uphold the law. It is unpopular to say it, but all public officers, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, owe their duties not only to crime victims, but to criminal defendants as well. For a prosecutor to blindly, or blithely, insist upon whatever result an aggressive crime victim demands would be improper. Yes, there is a Michigan statute giving particular rights to crime victims, and those statutory rights must be honored. However, that:
*Does not make the crime victim the client of the prosecutor’s office.
*Does not render the crime victim “involved” as the writer says, in the decision making on how the prosecution will go forward. Prosecutorial discretion must be exercised without political considerations.
If online comment boards are to be believed, the public seems to want all criminal defendants to “fry,” or least rot in a cell, for life without parole. Each crime carries a maximum penalty. “The defendant could get up to 10 years in prison, if convicted.” But, before a court will impose sentence, the court must have the sentencing guidelines result. Sentence guidelines take into account whether the crime was particularly violent, whether the individual is a recidivist, and other factors. When the sentence guidelines are calculated, a report is given to the court, with a sentence recommendation. Of course, the defendant and the prosecution are perfectly free to disagree on how they apply and the Judge makes the ultimate decision. I would venture, that most crimes do not result in a “maximum sentence” recommendation.
I try to stay out of politics, for obvious reasons. I am not surprised that the individual had a poor experience with the court system. Any experienced attorney will tell you, flatly, that an individual will be disappointed, if not disgusted once he or she experiences our court system first hand (criminal or civil, either one). It is slow. It is painful. It is expensive. Results are uncertain, and sometimes directly contrary to what people expect. But, it is the best system that we have yet developed, and probably the best system in the world.