More Reasons to Vote for Laura Conover
Hi there. I’m Leigh, and I’m visiting here. I share Mark’s views about the reasons why we need changes at the Pima County Attorney’s Office. I have some more, too.
In our tough economic times, we need a County Attorney who will better steward the substantial sum of money we spend in our community to prosecute criminals. Further, we need someone who will insist on running an office which focuses on justice, as opposed to convictions. Laura Conover meets these requirements.
The Office of the County Attorney as well as the Offices of the Public and Legal Defender serve the people of Pima County in many ways, not least of which is through developing skills of attorneys who will serve the public for years. Fine, career attorneys work in all of these offices. Many judges and successful private practice attorneys trained as either Deputy County Attorneys or Assistant Public/Legal Defenders. However, the ethical development of certain Pima County prosecutors has been problematic. The public pays the price – in dollars and shame – when prosecutors misbehave.
Specifically, I call to your attention State v. Dansdill, a decision issued by the Arizona Court of Appeals on May 28, 2019. Jonathan Mosher – presently the Chief Criminal Deputy at the PCAO and the candidate of the current PCAO leadership – prosecuted Patrick Dansdill in 2014. The jury convicted Mr. Dansdill, and in 2019 the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction. Why? In his closing argument Mr. Mosher gave the jury bad information about the meaning of felony murder. A technicality? Sure, but rules are rules, and the “prosecutor is the spokesperson for the state, an entity whose goal is to see justice done.”
Mark says we should not select a new County Attorney based on the number of cases he or she tries, or the outcomes. He’s right, but we should expect a candidate who heads the criminal division of the office, to avoid error in a murder trial.
Mr. Dansdill remains in custody. His new trial happens in November, per the court calendar. However, Covid-19 will surely delay the trial. Delay? Well, it forces victims to wait for closure and, at least in theory, it jeopardizes a future conviction, for witnesses die, disappear, etc.
Trials cost lots of money. They inconvenience many people: victims, witnesses (including law enforcement employees), prospective jurors, etc. Unnecessary second trials benefit no one.
Mr. Mosher is not the first senior attorney whose actions caused have problems for the Pima County Attorney’s Office. In 2004, one of Mr. Mosher’s predecessors as Chief Criminal Deputy was the first prosecutor in the United States to be disbarred for intentionally introducing false testimony in a capital murder case. Other lauded Deputy Pima County Attorneys committed professional misconduct in first degree murder trials in the 1990s and 2000s. In each instance the actions caused expenditures of substantial sums of money. Further, these incidents reflect poorly on us, the people in whose name prosecutors bring criminal cases.
At an Arizona Attorney General’s all-office seminar I attended in 1998, an afternoon ethics session for prosecutors began with examples of what not to do. Our instructor spilled the open secret that a certain prominent Deputy County Attorney – as it happens, the same one who was later disbarred – gave seminars about how to ‘vouch’ for a prosecution witness, prohibited behavior by prosecutors – without drawing objections.
Prosecutorial misconduct costs our community in dollars, and because those who speak for us – as powerful as they are – must act honorably and ethically. We need change at the Office of the Pima County Attorney, as our economy shrinks due to Covid-19. Laura Conover represents this change. Laura Conover will be the good steward of public dollars that taxpayers deserve and she will stay on the right side of the rules.
Guest blogger Leigh Bernstein is my partner at Rubin & Bernstein PLLC and Southern Arizona Fiduciary Services LLC, and my GF.