Stillwater News Press

Local News

June 14, 2014

Q5: Candidates sound off on legal issues

STILLWATER, Okla. — Jack Bowyer, Dennis McGrath and Laura Austin Thomas are Republican candidates for District Attorney in Payne and Logan counties. They will face off in the June 24 party primary. Bowyer and Thomas serve as assistant district attorneys under DA Tom Lee while McGrath is Stillwater’s assistant city attorney.

1 How do you see the District Attorney’s role in the county legal system?

Bowyer: The District Attorney’s primary responsibility is to prosecute crimes that occur in our community. However, the DA’s office is involved with the drug court program; child support enforcement; bogus check recovery; victim witness programs; the protection of children through the juvenile division and education of the public. Generally, state and local police departments investigate crimes and file reports which are forwarded to the District Attorney’s office. After a review of the facts of a case, the DA and staff must decide which cases are prosecuted. Each case must stand or fall on the facts of the case. It is the duty of the District Attorney to ensure justice is done, not to simply acquire convictions. A District Attorney must strive to acquire justice for the victim but must also seek to prevent the wrongful conviction of any person. Successful prosecution can lead to an individual’s loss of rights, so a prosecuting attorney must use discretion, perform careful research and seek justice. Violent, habitual offenders shall be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

McGrath: The role of the DA under Oklahoma law is to serve as a multi-faceted law office for the benefit of the county offices they serve, as well as protecting the public’s interest in open and responsible government. The most visible and reported duties of the DA is in criminal prosecution. The DA is the ultimate authority on what charges to file, and just as importantly, what not to file. The DA’s office also serves as the legal staff or advisors for the respective county commissions. In our district, Lowell Barto, a former city attorney for Stillwater now in private practice, serves as an assistant District Attorney and serves both Payne and Logan County Commissioners in carrying out their duties. He must be knowledgeable in employment law, property rights, tax laws and many other issues that are likely to arise.

Thomas: The District Attorney is the chief law enforcement official and should possess developed leadership skills and experience prosecuting major crimes, including homicides. We are the independent evaluator of evidence and legal issues, determining what charges should be filed against an individual. We advocate for crime victims and champion victim rights. We provide legal counsel for county government officials. We protect deprived and neglected children though juvenile court and prosecute delinquents. We manage top-performing child support offices collecting child support for our families. We should be a leader in the community, educating citizens on laws and resources in our counties.

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