Mike Fitzpatrick should be commended on the column in the Sept. 22 Register, titled: "Very few winners in court."
Annually, we prosecute approximately 600 felony cases and work with nearly 2,000 victims of crime. Prosecuting crime is not a pleasant task. The stories are often heart wrenching from the victim's point of view, but also we must deal with the humanity of the perpetrators of crime. There is no simple formula to dealing with the tragedy. It is not an exact science. Prosecutors have the important task of not only representing the people of the State of Ohio in an advocacy role, but are also required by law to be ministers of justice.
Often we find ourselves confronted with recanting victims, who change their stories out of fear of retaliation or because they have a special relationship to the defendant. Even in most cases where we are convinced of the guilt of the defendant, judgments and negotiations must be made based upon the strength of the evidence and how it will play to a randomly selected group of citizens called a jury. Once recommendations and decisions are made, communicating this to the victim may take a series of meetings to fully explain the legal and evidentiary realities which may not meet with their personal sense of justice. At times, the task is daunting in uncovering the truth, but the system is structured from beginning to end with that goal in mind. Defense lawyers likewise have a difficult task and one that is usually thankless. No one appreciates the role and work of defense lawyers more than prosecutors.
Fitzpatrick is right when he says people pass through the courthouse doors in a "never-ending wave of misery and despair." Crime is caused by many things, but selfishness seems to be a cornerstone. Living by the golden rule and replacing poverty with jobs and education would go a long way in transforming the genesis of this tragedy to hope.
Kevin J. Baxter
Erie County Prosecutor