Editorial Board: It’s never easy, but accountability must be part of justice system locally
A number of high-profile local decisions have come down in recent weeks in our local and regional justice system affecting individuals charged with crimes from our area.
Some, like the Jefferson County court sentencing of former Craig city councilman Brian MacKenzie, were confusingly lenient. MacKenzie, convicted by a jury in JeffCo of attempting to sexually assault a child, was sentenced only to probation — no jail or prison time. Understandably, this ignited a level of ire from the folks back home in Craig, where many felt that was an unconscionably light consequence for such a grievous betrayal of the public trust.
While that’s not technically indicative of the local justice system, it brought about many common gripes that up here in the northwest corner of the state, many judicial decisions feel improperly gentle. Obviously, this is a matter of fraught opinion and intense debate nationwide, but it’s undeniable that a sizable chunk of this community is concerned that a criminal element is being allowed to flourish without enough accountability being meted out by the justice system.
There was a bit of a sigh of relief, then, when Judge Brittany Schneider opted a few weeks back to be a little more aggressive with a ruling. Skyler Kemp, who is alleged to have broken into several Craig homes and vehicles over a period of weeks, has been charged with eight felonies and a handful of misdemeanors. Each charge had attached to it an individual bond amount, each one in the thousands of dollars, and it added up to a total aggregate of more than $60,000 in bond.
Kemp seemed unable to secure a bond of that size, and his lawyer asked for a sort of consolidation of the bonds into something more management so the accused might be able to spend the time preparing for his trial — scheduled for Dec. 22 — outside of custody. The lawyer argued that the string of crimes was a sort of ongoing series of a single crime, and therefore the multiple crimes could be treated as a single offense.
Schneider disagreed. The aggregated bond amounts remained in place.
We want to be clear that we appreciate the sacred American concept of being innocent until proven guilty. We appreciate the oft-forgotten reality that criminals, alleged or otherwise, have rights and deserve to be treated with humanity and consideration. We appreciate the concepts of mercy and forbearance. All are critical elements in a society and a justice system.
But we also appreciate a bit of common sense. If there’s real concern an individual will continue to be a danger to the community based on a preponderance of evidence to suggest that, it’s within the court’s right to keep that individual on a shorter leash. And, if convicted of a crime, it’s not unreasonable to ask that a consequence be appropriately issued.
We’ll see what happens with this particular case, and we’ll continue to keep an eye on other judicial actions, both locally and otherwise. But we hope appropriate justice might be applied going forward, and we applaud those making an effort to do so now.
The Craig Press Editorial Board includes general manager Sheli Steele; editor Cuyler Meade; and community members Amy Updike and Dan Davidson.
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