DA candidates answer questions about death penalty, restorative justice
If elected, will you serve the entire term regardless of what office or opportunities become available?
Bruce Brown: District Attorney’s are term limited to two terms. I will not ask voters to enlarge that term. I endeavor to serve voters effectively during my term and to plan for continuity to ensure a seamless transition to my successor. Personal opportunities would factor into a decision to serve the entirety of my final term.
Bruce Carey: Yes, I will serve the full term. I have no further political goals.
Sanam Mehrnia: If elected I will undoubtedly serve my entire term. I am an attorney and I have always been in pursuit of justice. My aspirations have always been to be an attorney and will remain so. As a defense attorney I seek justice for my clients, and as a prosecutor I will seek justice for my community and victims of crime.
Do you support or would you pursue the death penalty?
Bruce Brown: The law requires a District Attorney to consider the death penalty in first-degree murder cases where certain aggravating facts occur. The District continues to experience a historic surge in homicide and each new case leads the office to conduct an objective, fact driven analysis to determine the propriety of capital punishment. When asked by the Vail Daily in 2012, I publicly stated my general belief that the Aurora Theatre Shooting case did not merit the death penalty given a lack of criminal history by the perpetrator, despite the horrific nature of the crime. I recognize the reluctance of Coloradans sitting as jurors to impose the death penalty and would not seek the death penalty unless I was convinced such a sentence was consistent with our collective conscience.
Bruce Carey: Philosophically I do not support the death penalty. In the 27 years I have practiced law in this judicial district, there has been no occasion that I would have advocated for the death penalty. I would not use the death penalty as leverage in pursuing plea bargains and I don’t believe it is an effective deterrent. I’m not suggesting we change Colorado law, I may consider the death penalty under the most egregious circumstance.
Sanam Mehrnia: I am opposed to the death penalty as it stands today and am of the opinion that it needs to be abolished. One innocent person put to death is one too many. Recently, we have had too many cases of death row inmates being exonerated through newly discovered evidence. It is unclear how many innocent people have been put to death without having the opportunity or benefit of new technology that could possibly prove their innocence. Further, the cost of putting an inmate to death is astronomical. To keep an inmate on death row is only one small portion of the cost. There are numerous other costs that the public may not be completely aware of, such as the cost of the many appeals that ensue. Until we as a society know with absolute certainty of someone’s guilt and can reduce the cost to taxpayers, I stand in opposition to the death penalty. If in office, for all the reasons stated above, I would never pursue the death penalty.
Define your version of a restorative justice program, and how quickly would you try to institute one?
Bruce Brown: Restorative Justice programming currently exists within the District. Our Juvenile Diversion program keeps kids out of the courtroom and in the classroom by structuring a contract by which the delinquent child repairs the harm he or she has done, and includes authoring an apology letter to the victim. In certain instances, offenders and victims are asked to participate in a face-to-face meeting involving community members and trained professionals.
Bruce Carey: Restorative Justice is a program of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through repairing the harm done and reconciliation with victims and the community at large to allow victims and offenders to live harmoniously together in our communities.
The programs statistically are shown to reduce recidivism, improve victim satisfaction and reduce fear of re-victimization.
I will begin formal planning of the program on November 10th, 2016. The program will be outlined and we will begin implementation within my first 3 months of office. As we work through challenges, we will grow the program in scope and from county to county.
Sanam Mehrnia: Restorative Justice is a modern approach that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by a criminal act. It holds the offender accountable for their actions and it greatly reduces recidivism. Restorative justice recognizes that crime causes injury to the community, insists that justice repair those injuries and that all parties effected be involved in the process. Thus enabling the victim, offender and affected member of the community to be directly involved with responding to crime.
Victim Offender Mediation: Interested victims in this process have the opportunity to meet their offender in a safe and structured environment, engaging in discussion of the crime and its effect on the victim – facilitated by the assistance of a trained mediator. The goal is to permit victims to meet the offenders on voluntary basis in order to aid in their healing and to encourage the offender to learn about the impact of their criminal act and to take responsibility for the resulting harm.
Community Group Conference: Brings together victim, offender, and family, friends and other key supporters in deciding how to address the aftermath of the crime. It allows victims to be directly involved in responding to the crime, increases offender awareness, and engages the party’s support system in order to aid in victim healing and to assure the offender does not reoffend. It allows for a sentencing plan that addresses the concern of all interested parties.
Problem Solving Courts: Examples being Drug and DUI Court.
I would also focus on establishing Advocacy Groups for both Mental Health and our Veterans.
I would commence work on implementation of all mentioned programs as soon as I take office. The collaborative effort of the different departments and the community would be key to timely and effective implementation.