Candidates for Cole County prosecutor vow to be tough on crime

Richardson, Wilson differ on how they would solve criminal issues

Being tough on crime is what both candidates for Cole County prosecutor are promising they'll do if elected.

Incumbent Republican Mark Richardson is facing Democratic challenger Marshall Wilson.

Answers to all the questions that were asked of the candidates are posted below. For the complete article written from these interviews, see our newspaper or e-Edition for Monday, Oct. 25, 2010.

COLE COUNTY PROSECUTOR RACE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Incumbent Republican Mark Richardson

1) Why are you running for this office, and why do you think you're the best qualified candidate?

Quite simply, I want to continue to serve the citizens of Cole County as their Prosecuting Attorney. I am dedicated to my job and aware of the enormous responsibilities that come with it. Further, I am committed to insuring that the office remains independent, firmly rooted in law and order and is worthy of the respect of all members of our community. I have the strength based upon my experience to speak out and try the hard to prove cases. I am sensitive to the victims of crime and I seek just verdicts against those fairly accused of crimes. I am running to keep the office of prosecutor as it must be, independent, not clouded by politics or beholden to any individuals or special interests.

Many years of hands on experience and a continuing passion for the pursuit of justice are what make me qualified to retain my seat. I have tried my share of difficult cases while managing and maintaining the high set of standards I have implemented in the Cole County Prosecuting Attorney's office. I have done the work in the ,trenches 0/00 in the Cole County Prosecutor's Office for a total of ten years and won over 55 criminal jury trials including Murder 1st, serious assaults, robberies, burglaries, child molestations and drug cases. In addition, I have tried hundreds of jury waived trials. I have supervised and assisted dozens more. I have presented over 1,000 felony cases to the Cole County Grand Jury, restored when I took office following my election in 2006.

My record of 8 years as Jefferson City Municipal Judge brought respect to the Court, and earned respect from law enforcement officers and citizens alike. I have earned a reputation for quietly but effectively prosecuting criminals. I have worked with law enforcement officers to provide the assistance they need to help them do their best in gathering the truth about a crime through prompt application for search warrants and giving legal advice on a twenty-four hour, seven-days a week basis. I strive to do all I can as prosecutor to help us remain safe in our homes and streets.

2) What do you think the biggest issue(s) will be if you're elected and what solutions do you have, if any, for solving that/those issue(s)?

We must deal with numerous ,big issues, 0/00 in the near future, including the prosecution of two of the most serious first degree Murder cases the County has faced in recent history, one in which I am seeking the death penalty and the other involving the murder of a child. Getting sufficient prison time for drug dealers in order to help eradicate the devastating effects illegal drugs have on our community is extremely important. Forming a DWI Court for our County is another priority.

For solutions, basically, I must continue to rely on my experience and work ethic to diligently present the evidence obtained by law enforcement to the juries and ask for just verdicts. I will strive to recommend defendants who have the desire to remain sober to the DWI court in order to assist them and their families, while remaining mindful that the safety of our community is paramount. I have made policy changes to the Prosecutor's office to ensure that law enforcement agencies can obtain scientific evidence in the form of a breath or blood test in all DWI cases. Our office during my term has helped citizens and law enforcement by providing funds for a drug-dog for our county as well as additional funds for the drug task force, and obtaining a grant to counsel domestic batterers. Our office must continue to find additional ways to assist citizens as well as law enforcement in the detection of drug dealers bringing illegal drugs into our community and then swiftly prosecute them to the fullest. The successful prosecution of serious cases in our criminal courts today requires a prosecutor who has extensive criminal law experience. A prosecutor with a strong record is a deterrent to crime.

Successful prosecutions deter crime from our community and therefore make it a safer place to live. It is naive not to realize that criminals do communicate with each other about which are ,easy 0/00 or inexperienced prosecutors and which ones are battle-tested and tough.

3) How do you explain to other people what the job you want does, so they understand what you want to do?

The prosecutor determines if sufficient evidence exists to support a charge, and if so, files the criminal charge in court against a person. The prosecutor puts the criminal justice system in gear by filing a criminal charge. The prosecutor is a minister of justice and he must be guided in his discretion by the law and facts in making decisions to file or not file charges in court. The prosecutor in most cases then makes a recommendation of punishment. If the defendant does not plead guilty, then the prosecutor presents the evidence at a trial against the person charged. Criminal Jury Trial Experience from prosecuting and trying cases is an essential prerequisite to do the job well.

The prosecutor also presents search warrant applications to the court and advises law enforcement officers on a host of legal issues including search and seizure, applicable case law, and the meaning of criminal laws. The prosecutor presents the evidence and testimony to the Cole County Grand Jury which hears about thirty felony cases per month to determine probable cause for a case to go into Circuit Court. For cases where the Court places a defendant on probation, the prosecutor's office may collect and distribute restitution to victims. Also, the prosecutor files to forfeit money convicted defendants gained from the criminal acts they committed under the Criminal Activity Forfeiture Act.

4) What do you expect the hardest part of the job will be?

Prosecuting the more difficult and most serious cases such as murders, one in which I am seeking the death penalty and the other involving the murder of a child, assaults and the crimes against vulnerable victims - the elderly and children. In Cole County, historically, the elected prosecutor has tried these most serious cases, just as I have done in my first term.

5) You are running in a partisan political campaign. Do you think political labels are important for this office? If so, what is that importance?

The label has little importance for this office. The office must remain independent, firmly rooted in law and order. It must continue to be worthy of the respect of all members of our community by being outside the influence of any political party. The job of prosecutor is to see that justice is done under the law as it is. In doing so, the prosecutor serves all the people of the county.

6) What do you think it takes to do the job you want extremely well?

Criminal Jury Trial Experience. I worked my way up as a trial prosecutor trying less serious jury trials at first then moving up to the more serious trials, under the supervision of trial prosecutors and before trial judges. The skills and judgment developed through trial work in our courts is the most needed asset for the elected prosecutor, who is expected to try our most serious cases and supervise assistants trying their assigned cases. That experience must be developed over time and through a history of hard work in our criminal courts.

7) How do you plan to handle suggestions that you have a conflict of interest with another office, that might affect your ability to do your job?

No result in this election will cause me to have any such conflict. I will be able to continue to serve as prosecutor in front of any of the judges currently on the court or any candidates for judge.

Democrat Marshall Wilson

1) Why are you running for this office, and why do you think you're the best qualified candidate?

I want to be your next Prosecuting Attorney because I believe in serving the people of my community. I received great satisfaction from my years in the Attorney General's Office, as I have from serving the last 4 years as Municipal Judge. I want to be in a position to serve all of Cole County. My career has been spent as a trial attorney, so the Cole County Prosecutor's Office is the place where I can be of greatest service.

I am the best qualified candidate for this position because I have the judgment to make more appropriate decisions regarding which people deserve to be charged with crimes, and the skills to convict those people once they're charged.

2) What do you think the biggest issue(s) will be if you're elected and what solutions do you have, if any, for solving that/those issue(s)?

I think the biggest issues facing Cole County are the alarming rise in violent crimes and property crimes, particularly those offenses committed by juveniles.

First, by charging the right people with the right crimes, I will restore the philosophy in Cole County that if you're caught committing a crime, you're going to be convicted and punished. Numerous not-guilty jury verdicts embolden criminals and defense attorneys.

Second, I am going to work with school and church leaders in the community to battle the vicious cycle of gang behavior and those who imitate gang behavior.

Outside elements from St. Louis, Chicago, and elsewhere need to be shown that Cole County is a place where they will be convicted and sent to prison if they commit crimes here. Our local kids will then run out of these out-of-town ,heroes 0/00 to imitate, and they will instead see that such criminal behavior has the predictable result of being taken off the street and taken to prison.

3) How do you explain to other people what the job you want does, so they understand what you want to do?

While campaigning across Cole County this year, I've been telling people how important the Prosecutor's job it to everyone. The Police Department and the Sheriff's Department are well trained to arrest people who they think have committed crimes. It is the Prosecuting Attorney, however, who must exercise his independent discretion whether to charge that person. It is that decision - to bring the full power of the State of Missouri to convict and take away a person's liberty - which we should only entrust to someone with the right combination of judgment, character and the common sense values of the community. I have that right combination.

4) What do you expect the hardest part of the job will be?

I expect that the hardest part of being Prosecutor next year will be to break the cycle of street crime, which drives down property values and in turn causes a decline in our neighborhoods and the degradation of our business districts. This downward spiral needs to be broken so that our neighborhoods can recover and so that businesses will invest and move back into our cities and towns.

5) You are running in a partisan political campaign. Do you think political labels are important for this office? If so, what is that importance?

I do not think that political labels are important at all in a County race for a law enforcement position such a Prosecuting Attorney. Whether a person has an ,R 0/00 or a ,D 0/00 after their name bears no relationship to their personal character, judgment, or ability to do the job.

6) What do you think it takes to do the job you want extremely well?

To be the type of Prosecutor Cole County deserves takes a special mix of skills, including a broad base of legal experience, the judgment to determine whether a case can be proven, and especially the decency to be fair to the victim, the public, as well as the accused.

7) How do you plan to handle suggestions that you have a conflict of interest with another office, that might affect your ability to do your job.

I presume this question refers to the fact that my brother is also on the ballot and is running for Circuit Judge. Whether or not my brother is elected as Circuit Judge will have no effect on my ability to serve as Prosecutor. It is true that he would not preside over criminal cases prosecuted by my office. Presiding Judge Joyce would simply reallocate the caseload between the other Cole County Judges.

I will still prosecute those people who commit crimes in Cole County. Those cases will still be decided by Cole County juries.

This is simply not a factor in deciding whether I am the best person to be your next Prosecuting Attorney.

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