Tom Williams: Upset at system
I have been reading about the effort to recall District Attorney Bonnie Roesink. I dealt with her for more than 18 months concerning a case where the driver wrecked his automobile and his passenger was killed. I am one of the victim’s family members.
We, too, had disagreements with the District Attorney’s Office on whether to charge the defendant with a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor conviction would only bring a $300 fine and maybe 90 days in jail. Not much for taking a life. Our family wanted the stronger felony charges that could bring several years in jail and restitution for the victim’s daughter.
We believed we had a strong case for felony charges. The Colorado State Patrol estimated the driver’s speed was up to 125 mph. However, Ms. Roesink felt a jury would think a felony penalty would be too severe. Our disagreement, like those trying to recall Ms. Roesink, led to many conversations and meetings with her. In every meeting, she was truly concerned about the victim’s family and the impact the accident had on us.
During this trial, the driver’s past driving record was inadmissible. The state trooper who provided the estimated speed backed out of his testimony just before he was to testify. Truth was distorted enough for the jury to find the defendant not guilty. He walked out of court with no responsibility to anyone except his attorney for taking the life of a father, brother and son.
Should we have been upset at Bonnie Roesink and her staff?
We are upset at a legal system that looks not for justice, but for legality. Juries rarely see the whole picture. Crucial information to a case, because of a wide range of reasons, becomes inadmissible. Distortions of truth, when repeated over and over by the defense attorney and a paid “expert” witness, become truth. Politicians and advertising specialists use this procedure all the time to get desired results. Courts are locked into a set of rules. If they are not followed, the case may end in a mistrial or an appeal.
Therefore, truth, justice and fairness take a back seat to legality. They always have. They always will. Most people never understand this reality until they see firsthand how our legal system operates. And the judge’s hands are tied to correct obvious injustices.
So I recommend that those who are looking to recall Ms. Roesink take a hard look at where their frustrations lie. Replacing her will not change a faulty system. She is doing the job that she was hired to do by the voters of Colorado’s 14th Judicial District. Working with her will accomplish more than working against her.
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Work to form a new strategic plan for the Steamboat Springs School District will start next week with the first sessions of a listening tour aimed at getting broad community feedback.