If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Alan Prendergast followed his initial story about tween Jacob Christenson, who faces a second-degree arson charge in Douglas County for a fire set last May, with a suggestion that district attorney Carol Chambers talk publicly about the case. Thus far, however, this invite has only been taken up by readers. An example:
Chambers is charging the 10 year old according to a heightened "knowingly" standard. She should have charged pursuant to a lesser "negligence" (or, maybe, "releckness") standard commensurate with the crime. No one is trying to excuse anything or say there shouldn't be consequences and/or restitution. But what Chambers is doing (and does regularly as I know from a very analogous case that I personally witnessed) is precisely what Alan indicates -- overcharging for the sole purpose of gaining unfair leverage in negotiation for plea deals. She's actively trying to put people in an impossible position that completely undercuts the whole intent of the plea bargain process. The results are simply unjust. While throwing around her power in this way is hardly illegal, it is most certainly unethical.
Whatever motivates Chambers (politics? vengeance? her own constitutional bitterness?), it is doing little to provide additional security to our communities while actively undermining the interests of justice. (Btw, it is also undermining the power of your wallet as she unnecessarily (and unjustly) pursues long prison sentences for first-time offenders who would have done just as well with a variety of more lenient consequences. The costs of keeping those people in jail are something we each bear directly.)
Thanks for writing this, Alan. You hit the nail on the head with regard to her tactics. They are a flagrant abuse of power, and the sooner she is out of office, the better this world will be.
For more memorable takes, visit our Comment of the Day archive.