Pondering the vote in ‘Mayberry’ | VailDaily.com

Pondering the vote in ‘Mayberry’

Don Rogers

Maybe we should all thank our thoroughly inept prosecutors for clearing the Kobe Bryant rape case out of the way just before the traditional Labor Day start to the political campaign season. I know I do.Oh good. Now I can focus on who is more full of bull, Michael Moore or the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. And which is more irrelevant, President Bush reading “My Pet Goat” to schoolchildren in a Florida classroom for seven long minutes Sept. 11, 2001, after learning that an airliner had struck the World Trade Center, or Sen. Kerry sitting “stunned, unthinking” for over 30 minutes in the Capitol Building before security whisked him and others out.I’m free to worry over my vote for an incumbent prone to leaping to action, damn the consequences, with uneven results, or a challenger who takes all sides of all issues and thinks so hard he doesn’t accomplish anything other than being NOT the other guy. We have the campaigns for the nation’s top office stuck in Vietnam, for crying out loud. Don’t know about you, but I don’t care about what either Yalie did 30 years ago as a kid. I do wish each campaign would grow up already, though.By contrast, races more significant to us locally for two of three county commissioner seats offer more reason for optimism. There’s not a dog between Peter Runyon and Richard DeClark for one seat, or among Arn Menconi, A.J. Johnson and Buz Reynolds for the other. These are all thoughtful, talented and good people with real commitment to the county. These are the votes I will struggle over. But I’m comforted that we won’t go wrong with any of the above.I do wish that Johnson, sheriff for 20 years, were still sheriff, though. I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have had the Kobe Bryant train wreck that began with new Sheriff Joe Hoy deciding to take matters into his own hands and have Bryant arrested behind the DA’s back. Hoy should have left the matter at that point to the top law enforcement authority responsible for deciding whether there truly was a case to make. Duh. That went beyond a rookie mistake and into rank stupidity.I have to say I’m even more disappointed that the sheriff still thinks he’s done nothing at all wrong. A.J. has a lot more common sense than that.But the sheriff will get a couple of more years to learn the ropes and I hope redeem himself before he runs for re-election. That’s a good thing. This isn’t an easy job. I do hope honest reflection is part of that growth process. Hoy’s handling of the Bryant matter was just awful, between the rash decision to secretly arrest the NBA star and having so little control over his department that most employees thought it was a great idea to stock up on Hangman T-shirts that mocked Bryant with racist undertones. Unbelievable.Meantime, the DA, who does face his first election this fall, still holds to what a great case he had against Bryant and the great courage and fortitude of the alleged victim, who quit before the trial even began. Who are we trying to fool here?This isn’t the first higher-profile case the District Attorney’s Office has fumbled. The joke in Eagle County these days is that you can get away with murder. Here, a fellow in new trouble for allegedly beating the crap out of his girlfriend beat our finest without a lawyer in a homicide case in which he had confessed to killing a roommate in a drunken brawl and later recanted. He’ll face a new trial for the killing. Then there’s the fabulously blown deadline for evidence that Kathy Denson had shot a gun at or near rafters on her property a year or so before shooting her boyfriend to death. As a result, they couldn’t use that evidence in the trial. The prosecutors’ screw-up might have made no difference to the jury that acquitted her of wrongdoing, but it sure seems like our top law enforcement professionals could have been a little more thorough in a big case like that.With Bryant, they didn’t even reach mediocrity. Brave words, but dreadful performance. Besides making life ultimately harder for the alleged victim, which does leave me angry, I’m disturbed by the last defense motion on the day the case died.The defense asked for the case to be dismissed because the prosecutors failed to pass along evidence that suggested Bryant might be innocent. Turns out that the prosecutors had quietly dropped former New York City chief medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden as an expert witness. He had told them that the alleged victim’s light injuries could well have happened in a consensual interlude. The problem was that the prosecutors did not inform the defense of this. Besides being a violation of their duty, it suggests a team more interested in “winning” than seeking justice. If so, that nudges beyond incompetence and into the realm of outright misconduct. I’m afraid that as far as the District Attorney’s Office goes, it can’t get any worse than that. But if Hurlbert’s challenger, Bruce Brown, and his supporters believe they are now shoo-ins Nov. 2, they need to think again. Brown, a defense lawyer from Los Angeles of all places, has lived in Colorado a mere three years. He practices mainly along the Front Range while living at the eastern fringe of the 5th Judicial District. He’s a virtual unknown running against an incumbent who grew up and came back home to Summit County. That “longtime local” cachet and name recognition may well bail the incumbent out. Then Hurlbert, too, would get that second chance to redeem himself.I’m afraid he’ll have to do it without my vote, though. I’ve seen enough.A columnist at the paper I grew up with, The Los Angeles Times, caustically dismissed Eagle County’s law enforcement and justice system as “Mayberry” last week. I wish I had that much confidence in it. Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado

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