Jerame Davis

Pirouetting for Prosecutor

Filed By Jerame Davis | October 18, 2006 11:36 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Carl Brizzi, Indianapolis, Melina Kennedy, politics, prosecutor

There has been plenty of talk about whether "experience" is a necessary part of being prosecutor. Specifically, does one need to have ever tried criminal cases before a jury in order to be qualified to be prosecutor in Marion County?

I think the debate last night between current Marion County Prosecutor Republican Carl Brizzi and the woman trying to unseat him, Democrat Melina Kennedy, gives a hint at some answers.

As is usual in their sparring matches, Brizzi got in a few good jabs at Kennedy and vice versa. These two are quite good at finding every little mistake the other has made. But let's be clear, it has been on Brizzi's watch that the recent crime wave has taken hold and I can't help but be compelled by the Kennedy campaign's slogan, "Results matter."

The interesting tidbit in last night's debate was a question from moderator Dennis Ryerson, editor of the Indianapolis Star. Ryerson questioned Kennedy about experience and whether it should be an issue in this campaign. From the Star:

Ryerson asked Kennedy why her experience shouldn't be an issue.

"It's a leadership position," she said, adding that Brizzi, a former deputy prosecutor, has handled only two cases himself while prosecutor. "My experience as deputy mayor (and) my experience as a lawyer for over 10 years makes me the right person to lead that job."

An honest answer...And a good one too. I don't think a prosecutor needs to have tried a case...That means that most promotions would come from the small pool of deputy prosecutors and new leadership would be hard to find. Prosecutor is indeed a "leadership position" as there is a team of deputy prosecutors that try most cases.

Continuing the thread, Ryerson then turns to Brizzi with his own question about experience. Recently, Brizzi was endorsed by former Indianapolis Mayor and former Marion County Prosecutor Stephen Goldsmith. At the time of Goldsmith's election as prosecutor, he too had never put a criminal behind bars. Ryserson asked Brizzi if Goldsmith, a major endorsement for Brizzi, was unqualified for the job of prosecutor when he was elected. Brizzi's reply (again from the Star):

Brizzi sidestepped the question, responding: "When Steve Goldsmith was elected, I was 8 years old. I really don't know what the condition of the city was then, or the prosecutor's office. But I do know now that we are dealing with some major issues in our city."

Way to go, Carl. You may not be the best prosecutor this city has seen, but you're certainly a pro at the pirouette. Is that a qualification for prosecutor as well?

Results matter. We've seen the results of Brizzi's prosecutorial prowess. The result is an increase in violent crime and a city that at times has felt under siege. If this is what experience gets you, give me the rookie.

What do you think?

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You know, I'm of mixed minds of the Kennedy vs. Brizzi race. It's county prosecutor - not President or even mayor. It's been THE race on most blogs (like Taking Down Words, Fix Indy Now, Advance Indiana, etc.) and they've done the most advertising on TV.

But, really, I could just about care less. Is crime sky high lately? Yes. But is that all Brizzi's fault? No. There's the City-County Council, judges, law enforcement, the mayor's office, etc that all share the blame and burden for this catastrophe. You can't blame the crime wave on just one guy - it's not fair or accurate. Can you hold him partially to blame? Hell, yeah. That is fair and accurate.

And at the same time, you get Brizzi doing the ridiculous dance to try and keep Kennedy from stepping on his toes. He claims she has no experience when his biggest backer didn't have experience before being elected to the same job. You're right, Jerame, the Prosecutor's office isn't just a "promote from within" job. Brizzi sidestepped because there is no good answer to a spurious argument.

They're both good candidates trying desperately to either stave-off the Democratic takeover of Marion County or, conversely, complete it. I tend to agree with Matt Tulley in today's Star when he says "Funny thing is, both Kennedy and Brizzi are impressive. With so many less-than-stellar politicos emerging in Marion County, it would actually be nice to see these two candidates occupy key local political posts."

So how am I going to vote? I'll vote for Kennedy. Not because I think she's so much better, but because she's the Democrat. I'll follow partisan politics this year - which I normally try to avoid. But after seeing all but two of the local Republican council members vote against equal rights for LGBT residents, after knowing all the pleading and cajoling local gay Republicans have to do to achieve what they can, and after seeing the legislation proposed by Republican federal and state legislators, I can't do support that. I just can't. I guess it goes back to the old saw, "All politics is local."

Bil's and Jerame's comments, and those of the first poster, echo what I've heard all over the county. Neither will make a hill of beans difference in the crime rate. That's a nationwide trend, and our community has to work together on it. That's difficult in a polarizing political climate. The consolidation of the police forces is a good first move. More needs to be done.

Both candidates are bright. We'd do well to encourage that kind of political involvement. And I'm a little concerned that if we don't encourage the GOP to open its arms to people like Carl, we'll get more Phil Hinkles, Scott Schneiders, Rep. Murphys...their ilk repulses me.

Remember, Carl voluntarily changed his office policy to be inclusive of gays. He caught some serious shit form the right wing of his party. He told them to live with it.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why the Mayor pushed aside an expeerienced person before slating, to annoint Melina. But he did. And we Dems are forced to adopt their "results matter" while getting bombarded with Carl's "experience" ads.
Careful with that "blame" hammer,'ll smack us in the ass next year.

The Dems could've avoided a big hit on this one, if they'd chosen someone with experience. They did not. I guess I have to go with the higher-up Democrats' views on things, but it's not any fun.

In fact, it's heavy lifting.

Ok, My only question would be what good does a Prosecutor do for policy? Much like and assessor or treasure, they do what their told. I think Brizzi must be doing a good job if our jails are over crowded. I have become more and more of a backer of appointed positions. There are so mant that need to be. Why elect someone to do a job when a person that is trained to do the job would do a btter job. For example the coroner, I can be a coroner, but I study music in college. I am no way fit to be. Just a thought.

May I comment on the why Mayor Pet did what he did. (I sent my first letter before i got the second comment). M.Pete I doing everything he can to control the out lying township offices. He know's based on HB1001, that's hostile take over. But by stacking the deck those people can give up their positions. For example, P.Ricketts is the Lawrence Township Assessor, he opposed this fall by Jeff Hill, if Hill wins he can grant the services the assessor's office provides to the county and then resign from office. Probably not that easy, but you get the idea. Now some of this plan is great, it will put wasted money back in the hands of the city. However, let's look at the other side, the people of the Township may not recieve quite the service they did before and have you ever tried to talk to the county offices they are difficult at best. So do we lay back and allow total control of the offices to the city/county or do we say wait and vote for experience and convience. This has limited impact to the discussion about Prosecutor, but is relavent, I beleive. Anyways, just some random thoughts.

I agree with Bil that this race is getting way too much play for a local prosecutor's race, but it's the only race that's fun to watch, I guess.

Anonymous is right about moderates in the Republican party, but Brizzi isn't the make or break point for GOP moderates. They've been ousting their moderates for several years. It doesn't compel me to vote for him. I just don't think he's done a great job.

Terry, I don't see how having over-crowded jails proves anything other than the cops are over-worked and under-paid. The prosecutor doesn't fill the jail, the cops do. It's the prosecutor's job to make sure those criminals get the punishment they deserve.

I do know that one of the gunmen in the rash of nightclub shootings a while back was a guy that was acquitted in a murder trial that Carl Brizzi's "experience" prosecuted.

But I do agree with you about the intelligence of appointing some of these jobs with qualified people rather than electing them. There are any number of elected positions that fit this bill...But until this is the case, we will have to contend with the politics of it all.