Now, Hurlbert’s future will be decided |

Now, Hurlbert’s future will be decided

While a jury will not decide Kobe Bryant’s future, a jury of a different sort – voters – will decide District Attorney Mark Hurlbert’s.Both former Denver District Attorney Norm Early, and Hurlbert’s opponent in this fall’s campaign, Bruce Brown, say Wednesday’s decision to drop the Bryant case will have political implications for the district attorney’s bid to be re-elected in November.Early said the Bryant case is the one people will talk about when they discuss this district attorney’s race.”It remains to be seen how this case will effect Mark Hurlbert’s political future,” said Early. “There’s no question that this case will result in a referendum on his candidacy for district attorney.”Hurlbert, a Republican running his first political campaign, was appointed in Dec. 2002 by Gov. Bill Owens. Brown, Hurlbert’s Democratic opponent, said he’s trying to move the discussion along from inflamed rhetoric to suggestions and solutions.”I am not a single-issue or single-case candidate. I’m running because the problems that surfaced in the Kobe Bryant case have plagued the tenure of this district attorney,” said Brown, who lives in Clear Creek County. “People now see what the issues are and see the need for change.”I want to focus on how we make things better, and not what went wrong, unless it’s for the purpose of making things better,” Brown added. Hurlbert withdrew from prosecuting Bryant, citing the number of other cases his office was handling. He also said he had confidence his prosecution team of Ingrid Bakke, Gregg Crittenden and Dana EasterBrown said he would have taken the lead in Bryant’s prosecution.”If we’re successful you give credit to hard work and if we’re not successful I take responsibility for that failure,” said Brown. “If you don’t have a good case you wait until you do. If you never do, you don’t go forward.”Hurlbert will not comment publicly until next week, when he has agreed to talk about the Bryant case and other issues with the Vail Daily.Decision to dismissHurlbert dropped the case against Bryant when the woman accusing the NBA star of sexual assault said she was unable to go forward. Early said without a victim, rape and domestic violence cases can be tougher than they already are.”There’s a sizable group of the public who think that a prosecutor is absolutely right to follow the wishes of a victim, especially in a rape case,” said Early. “There’s another group who thinks a district attorney has a responsibility to push for a criminal resolution in cases where the district attorney feels a crime has been committed.”Early said there’s no training manual or how-to guide for circumstances like this. He said there are certain cases, especially rape and domestic violence, when the victim should be given more leeway in a prosecutor’s decision to go forward. But the final decision rests with the district attorney, Early said. “Whether or not to pursue a case is up to the prosecutors, not the victim, even in rape and domestic violence cases,” said Early. “Mark Hurlbert will have his naysayers for not forcing the issue.”Still, Early said, no one has ever seen a victim go through what this one did.”I think the constituency of the Fifth Judicial District understands that there has never been a victim in this country who has been under the pressure and scrutiny this victim has suffered,” said Early.Decision to chargeHurlbert is the top prosecutor in Fifth Judicial District that, along with Eagle County, includes Lake, Summit and Clear Creek counties.After just a few months on the job, he was thrust into the national spotlight with the Bryant case when Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy obtained warrants to search and arrest Bryant without Hurlbert’s knowledge. Hoy sidestepped he district attorney’s office and sought authority from Judge Russell Granger of Clear Creek County.But it was Hurlbert who made the decision to charge Bryant and who stood before dozens of television cameras on July 18, 2003 to make announcement, with Hoy at his side.”I have an ethical obligation that before filing a charge, I must believe I can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Hurlbert said that summer day 14 months ago.On Wednesday, Hurlbert again stood before a bank of television cameras and many of those same reporters and said the criminal part of the Bryant case is over.”Today, justice is sadly interrupted,” Hurlbert said.Brown said it’s time put the Bryant case behind and learn whatever lessons it can teach.”I want to look at how we can get past the Kobe Bryant case,” said Brown. “I’m looking forward to making victims in particular feel comfortable in court and feel protected by the district attorney when they’re the victim of a crime.”Also, the people of Eagle County need to know their tax dollars will not be wasted,” said Brown. “That means having trials in cases where crimes occur.”Randy Wyrick writes for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at Colorado

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