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Our View: DA election likely to take strange turns

It’s no secret that some mezmbers of Del Norte County’s legal community have deep-seated animosity toward others. And while that’s not unusual in an environment of courtroom battles and the politics of a district attorney election every four years, the extremes can raise eyebrows.

Personalities matter, of course, and if someone feels someone else is unfit for office, by all means spit it out. There is legitimate concern about incumbent DA Mike Riese, who was asked last November by the county’s chief administrator to take time off after displaying “erratic behavior” in the workplace. No doubt some concerns about other candidates will surface as well.

But at some point between now and the June 8 primary vote, the four candidates for district attorney will hopefully engage the issues surrounding how to best run a prosecutor’s office and mete out justice with a small staff and a big caseload. In other words, make this campaign season about more than just tearing down the other guys.

Meanwhile, voters should keep a discerning eye on developments in legal cases that might have a bearing on the election.

Take the curious motion of attorney James Fallman asking that DA Mike Riese not be allowed to prosecute the case of accused murderer Jarrod Wyatt. There’s an article about it in today’s paper. Fallman is not a candidate for DA, but it’s well-known he’s no fan of the incumbent.

The motion includes a signed declaration by Wyatt claiming he cannot “get a fair trial with (Riese) personally as the prosecutor because he already has a vendetta to keep me quiet about my knowledge of his drug-house activities.”

Wyatt claims in his declaration that “roughly five years ago” he and Riese ended up at the same social event, and that “everyone who attended that party was there to buy and use methamphetamine.”

Whammo. From out of nowhere Riese gets accused in a legal document of being at a drug party five years ago. That the accuser in this case happens to be charged with a particularly heinous murder doesn’t change the fact that the DA has just been associated with methamphetamine use for all the world to see. He can deny it, but it’s now out there.

Wyatt’s lawyerly statement goes on to claim that Riese is “intentionally trying to destroy my right to a fair trial locally with a jury of my peers by infecting the case further with notorious, yet unproven words to the public” such as describing the murder of Taylor Powell as “a very grotesque, very gruesome homicide.”

Sorry, Mr. Wyatt. You are presumed innocent of the crime, but its grotesqueness has already been “proven” by what authorities found at the scene.

Is Fallman’s motion a legitimate attempt to protect the rights of his client, or a creative way to fire an election-season missile at Riese?

That’s one more question Del Norte voters will have to ponder come June 8.

 

 

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