By Frank A. Sedita III
In a criminal case, the incriminating evidence must be admissible in court. It must be credible. And, it must be more than a tantalizing theory for the court of public opinion.
The evidence must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
My office’s standard for bringing a criminal prosecution is as follows: Consistent with the discretion afforded to an elected district attorney under the constitution and laws of this state, we will criminally prosecute a defendant when the credible evidence, likely admissible in court, establishes (1) that a crime has been committed and (2) that the defendant committed that crime.
When we have enough evidence to prosecute, we prosecute. When we don’t have enough evidence, we can’t prosecute.
To do otherwise would be unethical because it would run the risk of wrongfully convicting an innocent person.
It would also be unethical to adopt a different prosecution standard, such as “it is what it is,” or “someone has to pay for this,” or “let’s roll the dice,” or “the detectives think she did it,” or “let’s indict and see what happens,” or “let her prove her innocence.”
I recognize there are those who might genuinely disagree with our prosecution decisions.
It would, however, be both unethical and irresponsible to ignore the presumption of innocence, the requirement that the defendant’s guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the laws that will pertain to the case, the adequacy or inadequacy of the police investigation, both the strengths and the weaknesses of the prosecution proof and the expectations of a modern jury.
I proudly served as an assistant district attorney for more than 20 years and as this county’s chief homicide prosecutor for nearly eight years before I became the district attorney. My office is not shy about prosecuting tough cases and we have successfully done so time and time again.
More importantly, justice demands that a professional prosecutor should not only be tough, but also be fair.
In the Office of the Erie County District Attorney, prosecution decisions are based upon serious consideration of the facts and the law and are made in accordance with professional prosecution standards. I humbly submit that this approach best promotes justice for all.
Frank A. Sedita III is Erie County district attorney.