Experience matters, DA candidate Turner says
Ryan Summerlin October 18, 2012
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – District attorney candidate Scott Turner wants to win this campaign and maybe one more.
“I have no political aspirations beyond this job. I’m running for this job because I love what I do and I believe in what the job is about,” Turner said.
Turner is a Republican campaigning to be the top cop in the Fifth Judicial District – Eagle, Lake Summit and Clear Creek counties.
“It’s truly something I believe in or I wouldn’t be doing this,” Turner said.
Turner said the District Attorney’s Office needs to make some changes, and that his opponent, Democrat Bruce Brown, lacks the experience to make those changes.
“Anything he has done that he thinks is a qualification for this job, I’ve done it and more,” Turner said.
Going for the goal
Turner earned his bachelor’s and law degrees in five and a half years from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, graduating in 1989.
“I knew where I was going and I was in a hurry to get there,” he said.
He walked from the commencement line to a job with the sex crimes unit in the Kansas City District Attorney’s office. He handled several hundred cases a year, most of them horrible.
“I saw anything you could imagine,” Turner said. “The first month I wondered what I’d gotten myself into, people doing things to little kids that shouldn’t happen to adults, let alone little kids,” Turner said.
Kids would come into his office and tell the most horrific stories.
“That’s 22 years ago and I still remember them as plain as day. They’d talk about it and then turn around and play with a toy truck,” Turner said.
You don’t get used to it, you just learn to live with it and go about the work of putting bad guys in jail.
“You get in there and do the best you can for the victim,” Turner said.
He said that’s part of what has him working with several victims advocates groups around the four-county Fifth Judicial District.
Eventually, he moved from sex crimes to more mainstream crime, which was a paradigm shift.
“People getting their cars stolen and shoplifting from department stores didn’t quite measure up to 4-year-olds getting sexually assaulted by their parents,” Turner said, shaking his head and smiling.
He stayed with the Kansas City DA’s office for three and a half years before moving into private practice.
Domestic violence audit
Turner said part of the success in any organization is spotting and mentoring talent.
“Part of the reward is working with young attorneys and watching them grow,” Turner said.
The past couple years he’s been working on a domestic violence audit. It tracks from the time the phone call is made to police to when the perpetrator’s sentence is served.
He said the dynamics of a domestic violence case make them especially tough because law enforcement officers are normally dealing with people who claim to love each other.
“Usually they’re in a close relationship with the offender,” Turner said.
Prosecuting those cases is a fine line because it creates an adversarial relationship between the victim and the offender, he said.
“Many times victims don’t want to cooperate because they’re in a close relationship with that person,” Turner said. “We don’t want to re-victimize someone, but we don’t want to put them in a position where it happens again.”
In Colorado last year, 38 deaths were attributed to domestic violence violations, he said.
“We never want to see what seems to be a minor case end up as something like that,” Turner said. “As a district attorney, you take a strong stance up front so it doesn’t escalate into something like that.”
Turner grew up around Kansas City and moved to Colorado in 2005.
His three-partner firm was going its separate ways. One partner became a judge. The other had just had a baby and was trying to have another. It was time to make the jump to Colorado, so he pointed his vehicle into the sunset and followed Horace Greeley’s most memorable advice, “Go west, young man.”
He works in the DA offices in all four counties. It’s not uncommon to be in three offices in a day and all four each week, he said.
He says that helps him understand the caseload, the staff and the budget. The DA’s office is funded through an equation of sales taxes, case load and property values. Eagle County last year was 52 percent of the District Attorney’s Office budget.
In all those years and all those cases, he said he has learned that there’s no such thing as a sure thing.
“I’ve walked into courtrooms knowing I would lose and won. Other times I’ve walked in with a slam dunk case and the jury comes back with not guilty,” Turner said, adding that slam dunk cases either way should not be going to trial.
“When you’ve done it 20 years you’ve seen it all. I’ve been lucky. I usually agree with the jury. I may disagree with their decision but I understand their reasoning,” he said. “It’s hard to take someone’s freedom away, and it should be. I always tell juries after they return a verdict that they have the toughest job in the courtroom. They have to make the big decision.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.