Our View: No honeymoon for new DA
Jesse Wilson might just have the toughest job in the county.
Being the district attorney — the position Wilson assumed in a Monday ceremony — might also be the most unforgiving.
As the county’s district attorney, Wilson is now responsible for prosecuting misdemeanors and felonies. There are also investigations that stem from his office, which is the dominant player in the local criminal justice system.
Law enforcement makes arrests, but the case goes nowhere without the DA’s office pursuing the case. A murder charge can turn into manslaughter, or disappear entirely.
Prosecutors have a weighty power in our government, and are held to high standards. They also take their share of the blame. You just need to read the Facebook comments to know that.
A common refrain is to blame the DA and judge when someone gets out on bond, enters a plea to a lesser charge, or receives a weak sentence. Never mind that judges are often restricted by state law in the sentences they issue, and have no power over a defendant receiving two-for-one credit on certain offenses.
Likewise, prosecutors are looking for convictions. They can roll the dice at trial, or go for the sure thing with a plea.
There’s always someone to blame, though, and attorneys make a great scapegoat.
Crime is certain to be a major issue in the district attorney’s race next year, which will arrive faster than you might think. Wilson will serve out the remainder of former District Attorney Cliff Newell’s term, which ends in January 2023, but the election for a full term will be next June. That means mail-in ballots go out in May, with the campaign starting several weeks before that.
Wilson has a tough, but not insurmountable, task ahead of him if he’s to show he’s the right person for the job.
People are upset and angry about crime. They see a revolving door at the jail, and few — if any — attempts to stop it. Voters watch as high profile cases continue to be stalled in the court system. Victims wonder why it takes over two years for some cases to reach trial.
The pandemic was a good reason to delay these important cases. That’s no longer true. Sean Bryant and Michael McCauley, jailed since mid-2018 in connection with the death of Stan Norman, need to go to trial. Michael Pocock, in jail since May 2019 in connection with the shooting deaths of David Dominguez and Rabecca Mershon, needs to go to trial.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Wilson would be wise to fast track these cases, bring them to trial and prove he’s an energized and effective district attorney.
Regardless of your feelings about Newell, he held the office of district attorney because he stood before the voters of Nevada County every four years and got the most votes. Wilson has been given a substantial benefit with his appointment to the job, as he is now the incumbent. He has a short time to establish himself before he, too, must stand before the voters.
It’s an unenviable position — get the most votes every four years if you want to continue having a job. Most people wouldn’t choose that, but there’s a reason our system is set up that way.
Sheriff, supervisor, governor and district attorney are a few of the jobs that require the people to regularly state at the ballot box they either want the same person to continue in the role, or choose someone new.
That’s because these jobs hold immense power. The people who hold them must have the voters’ trust, and maintain it over the years.
It’s tough, as Wilson certainly knows, but no one said it would be easy.
The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com
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