DA Henry Solano responds
Eric Mullens’ lengthy editorial screed in last week’s paper illuminates the intersection between the rights of the accused and the alleged, “absolute” right of the public to learn the details contained in affidavits submitted to the courts. These are genuine, yet competing interests that must be balanced in criminal matters brought before judges. The documents Mullens is demanding to be routinely released represent initial information which, in order to secure the arrest of an individual (one of the most serious exercises of government power), may contain confidential information necessary to convince court authorities to issue an arrest warrant. Affidavits often contain information that is protected against disclosure under the Canons of Professional Responsibility (the Colorado Supreme Court Standard that follows directly from the U.S. and Colorado Constitutional protections for the accused). This Constitutional protection for a fair trial is the law of the land, trumping even state statutes. While the press enjoy constitutional protection as well, and rightfully so, both U.S and Colorado Supreme Court opinions place that protection secondary to the rights and interest of the accused. The presumption of innocence until tried in open court by a jury of their peers makes our judicial system the fairest in the world .
The open court process and hearings which can and are attended by the press provide a far better venue for insuring the impartial reporting we would all hope for. Mullens dismisses the Code of Professional Responsibility because it is published by the Colorado Bar Association. However these ethical standards have been adopted by the Colorado Supreme Court, with the bar association publication providing commentary by expert committees that provide helpful interpretations for each standard. Failure to adhere to these legal requirements can lead to disciplinary actions, as was evidenced by the actions and omissions that prompted the Colorado Supreme Court to supervise my predecessor. The code of conduct states, “Failure to comply with an obligation or prohibition imposed by a Rule is a basis for invoking the disciplinary process,” as many of your readers will recall.
Not only are all lawyers party to a case instructed that, “…(they) shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of pubic communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing…” a court proceeding; but prosecutors carry a special obligation to “…refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused, and exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor in a criminal case from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making.” Whenever this risk arises, I will continue to request closure of records at the discretion of the court. Press curiosity can never be allowed to trump the rights of the accused.
The Press is free to report what is a matter of public record and the District Attorney’s Office supports and encourages them to do so. Huerfano County is small and its jury pool even smaller. Therefore, protecting the integrity of that jury pool and the accused’s right to a fair trial call for precautionary procedures which we are implementing. Not only is it fair to the accused but also nothing is more disruptive and costly than to have a trial transferred to another jurisdiction. Witnesses are adversely impacted, as are the victims of crimes.
Respectfully, ~Henry Solano 3rd Judicial District Attorney
Commissioners, thanks for listening
We want to thank the County Commissioners for their actions today regarding future permits and restrictions on events involving groups of less than 500. There was a very unfortunate event in Gardner this past weekend which could have been avoided if these actions were in place ahead of time. We appreciate that in the future there will be restrictions relating to sanitation, decimal levels, and hours relating to noise. These permit requirements will empower the Sheriff’s department to take appropriate action. ~Nancy Joroff Nancy Olson Dave Wisecarver
A Big Thanks to Tom Pritchard
Dear Editor: We would like to thank Tom Pritchard (The Villagio) for his incredibly generous donation for the roof repair at Washington Underground Rec Center. Thanks to this donation and his oversight of the project, the roof is no longer leaking, which has allowed us to paint without worries. It’s folks like Tom, who make an investment in the community, where so many will benefit. We have many new classes at the rec center, increased attendance and programs to serve all our populations. Thank you Tom! Sincerely, ~District ONE and Washington Underground Staff Walsenburg, CO
May the Fort Be With You
To the Editor,
On July 22, Francisco Fort Museum held its annual Francisco Fort Day celebration. In the past this event was probably the largest event held in La Veta and was held over a two day period. However, in recent years it had waned, dropping to one day, and with low attendance.
With the help of a devoted museum board of directors and a newly formed committee, headed by DeEtta Lessar, Francisco Fort Day is making a comeback! This year the event returned to the closing of West Francisco Street, making the event more visible and accessible. Lessar and her committee returned to many of the old fashioned small town activities that were the charm of the celebration, such as the chicken drop (aka chicken bingo), butter making, a scavenger hunt, and a duck race down the Cuchara River. Mountain Man Will Prator was on hand. Bed races were run. Kid’s activities were held and Bocce Ball was played. In all, more than $1,000 was raised on this single day.
All of this took a lot of work by many volunteers, which I shall now thank:
• The Methodist Church Men’s Group for the pancake breakfast. It brought in $623 for the museum. The second highest amount ever!
• John Carlson for the sound system.
• Michael Kernor for blacksmithing demos.
• The museum staff: Nancy Christofferson, Mike Crowbridge, and Lee Ferraro. • Shane Clouse for emceeing the event.
• Mayor Doug Brgoch for his help on honoring local pioneers.
• John Van Keuren for researching and building a Faro card game board, associated equipment, and for teaching folks how to play Faro, which was the gambling game of its day.
• The Tom and DeEtta Lessar family for loads of work! On behalf of the Huerfano County Historical Society and the Francisco Fort Museum Board of Directors I’d like to thank all of the above, along with the citizens of Huerfano County, who continuously support the fort. ~Bob Kennemer, Museum Director, La Veta, CO P.S. In the words of Col. John M. Francisco, “May the Fort be with you.”
Marion Vigil is retiring from Colfax General Long Term Care
It is with deep sadness that I announce my retirement from the board of the Colfax General Long Term Care facility. Due to my illness and the loss of my good friend and confidant Bill Norris—who had said he would be by my side as chairman of the board. Bill is going to be hard to replace. He had indicated to me that he would be around to help continue to guide me in my position following his retirement. It’s not an easy job to be chairman of the facility in this day and age. We are truly thankful for Bill’s efforts in guiding and maintaining a 5 Star Long Term Care facility in Springer.
I want to thank all of the people of Springer, Cimarron, Maxwell and Angel Fire and especially my fellow board members. I hope that you can continue to stay and represent the facility and do a good job. I loved all of the employees at the facility—everyone from the laundry workers to CNAs and to those at the top. I hope that you can continue to do well and carry on with what you have to do.
My hope is that you continue to take very good care of the residents and their families by providing them with the utmost respect that they are owed. They are who is most important! My family and I are forever grateful and thankful to all who took great pride in caring for my husband while he was at the facility.
I will always treasure the time I served on the board and wish to thank all of the people who voted for me for the last 29+ years that I was able to serve Colfax General and the community. Thank you all! May God Bless you for every time you voted for me with the confidence that I carry on the duties as a board member and chairman. Thank you. Respectfully, ~Marian T. Vigil Springer, NM