Andy Van De Voorde's October 17 story about the Denver DA's race, "Trial by Ire," was excellent but may have missed a couple of the real issues. First, the financial necessities and politics of Denver and Colorado predicate a plea-bargain rate that is at a rock-bottom minimum of 95 percent. Anything else gets into cost overruns and packs the jails and prisons. The problem with that is that it does not address the need for targeting of the 5 percent of criminal felons responsible for 85 percent of all significant felonies.
Denver, with the highest proportion of these felons in the state, also has the lowest proportion of prosecuting them as habitual criminals. If it did, it might lead to weighing in the question of which is more important--higher costs for imprisoning predators, or the more unquantifiable cost of what they do to people and society?
The other issue is that of the character of the Denver DA. Ritter is clearly a good human being with good intentions and "social consciousness." But should that be the requisite for a major city prosecutor? Or does it possibly require an SOB who will gleefully go after the predators with evident pleasure? Ritter may clearly have the heart for people, but Silverman clearly has the fire in the belly for this sort of work. And that may be the real choice for picking a candidate for the Denver DA.
Craig Silverman looks like Saddam Hussein. Put their pictures side by side and--without captions--you can't tell them apart.
The similarities go beyond the physical. Both are totally ruthless, with no respect for anyone's rights but their own. Both believe no law is bigger than they are. Both lust after power.
Is that an unfair characterization? No question. To wrap one man in another's villainy--especially an animal like Saddam--is dishonest, unscrupulous and depraved. But Craig Silverman can't complain. That's what he did to a young black defendant, LaShawn Harris.
With no regard for the rules of law that govern lawyers, Silverman compared Harris--charged with first-degree assault--to Saddam Hussein. The rules of law prohibiting such flagrantly unfair argument made no difference to him. The conviction was reversed for prosecutorial misconduct (Harris v. People, 888 P2nd 259, 1995). And Harris? Instead of doing the time he should have done, Silverman plea-bargained it down. Harris is out now.
We know this much about Silverman: He won't follow the rules of law. Do we applaud him for toughness? It put Harris back on the streets. More important: Do we trust such a man with the power of the DA's office?
Warwick Downing (former district attorney,
22nd judicial district)
Bill Ritter reminds me a little of Jack Johnson, a huge, tough, no-bull cop who was warden of Cook County Jail in Chicago in the early Sixties. Like Ritter, Johnson had principled, informed objections to the death penalty. But Johnson presided at several state-sponsored killings of killers. Just as Ritter will work for more such killings if the crime "is heinous enough"--which translates to "might endanger my political career."
And yet Ritter is obviously the lesser evil, I say. Even if he does not dare say aloud that to surround a nineteen-year-old scared, stupid, sick killer with the same hatred he has gushing inside of him--to punish and punish and punish him some more, decade after decade-- does nothing whatsoever for his victim's relatives, but guarantees that whatever chance there ever was of this kid reforming himself is permanently crushed.
Warden Johnson initiated the revolutionary policy that condemned killers could mingle with the prison population except for a couple of weeks before their scheduled executions. The result was that some of these killers became something closer to human beings. Two of them had their death sentences set aside. But Jack Johnson was a bit much for Sixties Chicago; he soon lost his job.
Craig Silverman has the kind of mentality that heartily approves of the sadism of locking up men in death-row cells for years under the most repressive and punitive of confinements.
In a community with a pretty high educational level, Ritter simply lacks the guts or idealism to voice (what I hope are) his deepest convictions.
But Silverman is the real killer animal--killing with words.
Plastic Oh-No Band
I just read Tony Perez-Giese's October 17 article, "The Boston Chicken Party," about Frank Erickson's war against the overuse of plastic by Boston Chicken, or Boston Market, or whatever they're calling themselves this week.
It's a shame that more consumers don't take such a stand.
Ever been to Starbuck's? They serve all in-house cold drinks in plastic throwaway cups with lids. I guess their employees get paid by how much plastic they dispense.