Last week there were five jury trials in the courts of Stevens County. There were two in District Court and three in Superior Court. I do not remember any time that we have conducted so many trials in a single week.
Two of them were DUI trials in District Court. One was State v. Jeanine Walker. In this case, Stevens County Deputy Peterson observed dangerous driving and made a stop. He observed the odor of alcohol on the driver and investigated.
Trooper Dell also was involved. The jury deliberated for about 20 minutes and found her guilty of the DUI.
In the other DUI, a citizen observed dangerous driving on Aladdin Rd. near Douglas Falls Rd. and filmed it and called it in. Deputies did not observe any driving, but found the vehicle parked and the driver appeared to be under the influence of prescribed medication. After a two-day trial, the jury deliberated for nearly two hours and acquitted Lyndon A. Devantier of the DUI charge.
In two of the Superior Court cases, the original stops or arrest was made because the vehicle plates were either missing or not be properly transferred upon change of ownership. In one case, as a result of the ensuing investigation after the stop, Gerald Girl was discovered to be in possession of controlled substances. He was convicted at trial after he refused to accept any responsibility for his conduct.
In the other case based on a registration defect, Gloria Mercer was convicted of possession of heroin when it was found during a search of the vehicle after her arrest. She likewise refused all offers to settle the case and demanded a trial. The state was able to prove her possession of heroin and she was convicted.
In the fifth case, Alan Roland was arrested after an investigation into a threat against a post office employee. During the investigation he was found to be in possession of a firearm. Because he had been convicted of a felony many years ago, his possession of the firearm was illegal. He refused offers to settle the case with a plea and was convicted. He faces just over one year in prison.
There was a sixth trial scheduled, but the defendant failed to appear and so a warrant was issued and when picked up, he will be charged with Bail Jumping.
These many trials in one week is a burden on the public for jury duty and on the courts and our office. However, they are a reflection of the fact that the number of cases filed since 2014 has doubled. We need to find a way to create an alternative to the criminal justice process in order to save money, jail space and court time.
(COLUMN BY STEVENS COUNTY PROSECUTOR TIM RASSMUSSEN)