DA office is not an entry-level position

By Brett Carter: Guest columnist

Editor’s note: The Clovis News Journal on Thursday offered a guest column to both district-attorney candidates in Tuesday’s primary election. Incumbent Brett Carter chose to write his own report, while challenger Matthew Chandler asked his honorary campaign chairman to write the report. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

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I graduated from Eastern New Mexico University in 1983 and from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1986. I was hired as an assistant district attorney in Clovis in 1987 and have been a prosecutor here for 17 years. My wife, Amelia, and I have one son, Nate. We attend Parkland Baptist Church.

Gov. Gary Johnson appointed me district attorney on July 1, 2002. I was elected to the office in November of 2002. I was selected “prosecutor of the year” for the state of New Mexico in 1997. That same year, the Supreme Court appointed me to the Children’s Court Rules Committee.

From 1998 to 2000, I served on a bill analysis team and provided a written analysis for the legislative bodies on all House and Senate bills that would have an impact on law enforcement agencies. I have been a member of the New Mexico Gang Task Force since 1993. I coached children’s soccer for several years and was an assistant Little League baseball coach.

The district attorney’s job is complex and has many responsibilities. The DA’s office has a $2 million budget and includes the supervision of eight attorneys and 23 support staff.

The chief job of the district attorney is to prosecute individuals accused of crimes by police.

The district attorney is responsible for mentoring, giving guidance and advice to other prosecutors in the office. Those responsibilities are extremely tough if you have less experience than your attorneys. That’s one reason I am the only candidate publicly supported by attorneys in the DA’s office. These prosecutors know experience counts.

It is the primary responsibility of police to prevent crime and arrest those they believe have committed crimes. It is the duty of the district attorney to prosecute those accused.

The district attorney provides legal guidance to police agencies on topics such as whether or not the officer has probable cause to obtain a search warrant for evidence during their investigations. If the incorrect information is given and the courts throw out the evidence, the entire case may have to be dismissed, no matter how serious the crime.

It is important to have an experienced lawyer giving that advice.

The district attorney’s office is too important for on-the-job training and is not an entry-level position. It requires experience: experience in supervising others; experience in developing and managing a budget; experience in the courtroom; experience in deciding which cases to prosecute and the courage to tell the officers when they don’t have enough evidence to pursue a case. I am the only candidate with that experience. The wrong legal advice can lead to lawsuits against the officers and cases thrown out of court on technicalities.

The primary worksite of a prosecutor is in the courtroom. The more experience a prosecutor has, the more complex and serious cases they are assigned. I am the only candidate who has tried death-penalty, first-degree and second-degree murder cases, and cases involving sexual offenses against children in front of a jury.

Our office has a policy of prosecuting repeat offenders and a proven program that targets and prosecutes parents of children who are habitually absent from school. In addition, in this district a significant number of methamphetamine labs are found due to merchants reporting to police suspicious purchases of materials that could be used to manufacture methamphetamine.

Many of the programs my opponent claims would be a first for the district are already in place.

Brett Carter is the 9th Judicial District Attorney.