Friday, May 22, 2009
DOES STARK COUNTY NEED A NEW CHIEF CRIMINAL PROSECUTOR?
Yours truly had never seen Stark County Chief Criminal Prosecutor Dennis Barr try a case before. However, the word on the street has been that he's a great prosecutor.
Well, he either had a bad time of it with Ohio v. Devies or whoever was mouthing the adjective "great" doesn't know how to assess lawyer skills.
Dennis Barr and his boss, the elected prosecutor - John D. Ferrero - suffered a humiliating loss in the Devies case. Anyway you cut it, dice it or whatever, Dennis Barr has owned this case from the get-go.
Who was one of the first people in Stark County law enforcement that Marlboro Township trustee Tim Wise talked with? Dennis Barr, that's who.
So it is clear to the SCPR that Barr just didn't have something dumped in his lap and told: "I know, it's a weak case, but it's yours to try."
Even from the outside, yours truly (being a licensed attorney for 35 years) knew that there was going to be an acquittal (if the case went to trial) or, perhaps, the prosecutor would try to plea bargain is way out of what was certain to be a humiliating loss.
And plea bargain the prosecutor's tried (as confirmed to the SCPR by Kyle Devies attorney Jeff Jakimedes). The prosecutors offered to bargain down to misdemeanors which normally would be tempting to any defendant: i.e. going from a felony to a misdemeanor.
But, the highly competent Jeff Jakimedes and Dick Reinbold (Ron Devies - a former Stark County Common Pleas judge) knew they were going to win this case. That's how weak it was. So they rejected the plea bargain offer out-of-hand!
Prosecutor Barr couldn't even force Jakimedes and Reinbold to put on a defense. That folks - in the legal profession - is known as being a "slam dunk."
While the SCPR is gratified that what appears to be an attempted miscarriage of justice failed, it does raise questions about the qualities of the legal analysis going on inside the Stark County prosecutor's office.
John Ferrero is one of three Democrats running countywide in 2008 that Stark County Republican Party Jeff Matthews couldn't find someone to run against. And Stark Countians are the loser for it.
Ferrero apparently has grown comfortable in his public position and either lacks the skill to analyze the prosecutable from the non-prosecutable or perhaps allows other factors to filter in that have no place in the decision. One would think that Dennis Barr wouldn't want the humiliation of being directed out by the judge. But, as pointed out above, he was involved in the Devies analysis from the very beginning.
As an aside, an interesting dynamic of the Devies case is that the chief criminal prosecutor would be trying this case in the first place. Really? Why put your "top gun" on a fourth degree felony case. The SCPR has not checked, but yours truly would be very surprised to learn that Barr tries fourth degree felonies as a matter of course.
In the end, the failure of Ferrero and Barr to analyze the obvious, brings in to question as to whether or not Stark County is well served with Dennis Barr being the chief of the criminal division.
Nothing can be done about Ferrero because of the failure of Jeff Matthews and the Stark County Republican Executive Committee in fielding a candidate in 2008 until 2012, when Ferrero will have to face the electorate again.
But shouldn't Stark Countians be demanding that Ferrero be taking a look at Dennis Barr and the quality of legal analysis and prosecution coming out of the criminal division?