Warren County District Attorney Ross McKeirnan answered some questions about the position of district attorney prior to the primary election on Tuesday, May 21.
What do you feel is the role of the plea bargain in criminal prosecution?
Negotiated pleas are part of the system in this country. It’s part of pursuing successful convictions. My philosophy is, I’m going to cut a break for those who deserve it and hammer those who deserve to be hammered.
I also have an obligation to Warren County taxpayers to move cases through the criminal justice system.
What do you see for the future of the Warren County Drug Task Force?
I created the Warren County Drug Task Force because I saw the pervasiveness of drugs in the county. There is no vice unit in this county so I think it’s vital to the safety and security of the county.
Drugs are a serious issue in this community.
I believe in it so much I donated my own money to it. I felt passionate enough to donate 10,000 of my own dollars.
The sheriff, Ken Klakamp, is coordinator. He’s highly trained and does a wonderful job.
We’ve had a high degree of success. We’ve prosecuted 87 possession with intent (to deliver) cases.
We have state-of-the-art, high-tech equipment we employ. We use confidential informants. It’s like dominoes. We use criminals to catch criminals.
McKeirnan responded to a follow-up question on a case in which someone was wrongly prosecuted due to false information provided by an informant.
As soon as I found out, I released the individual and pressed charges against the appropriate party.
We’re using criminals. You’re not going to have a 100 percent success rate.
I’m proud of the Drug Task Force and I stand by our record.
What do you think is the ideal size of the district attorney’s office, should the county employ a county detective and, if so, should the position be full- or part-time?
Let me say, I have a very good and efficient staff, including my front office staff.
Elizabeth Feronti and I have been available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for eight years for law enforcement. She’s as effective and competent as any prosecutor in this state.
I fought with the (Warren County) commissioners to get a full-time investigator. Another assistant district attorney would be great. But in these lean times, the money is just not there for it.
What do you feel is the most important issue facing the criminal justice system in Warren County?
Substance abuse and the accompanying fallout crimes like burglary and theft.
What comment do you have on the recent Francis Notoro trial (in which Notoro was found guilty of some charges but not the most serious offenses he faced)?
I think I did everything I could. I felt that everything that could go right did. I’m very satisfied with the job the police, the witnesses, the experts and I did. But you can never predict what a jury will do.
I don’t feel justice was served, but I’m satisfied he got a state sentence.
McKeirnan also outlined what he feels makes him the most qualified candidate running to serve as district attorney.
As Warren County District Attorney, my job has been nothing less than maintaining the safety and security of Warren County.
I have 30 years experience as a trial attorney in Warren and two terms as district attorney. I spent 14 years as a public defender. I’ve mentored a lot of young attorneys.
I created the Warren County Drug Task Force. I, through the forfeiture laws, secured funds to keep the task force running.
I incorporated the crime victims office into the district attorney’s office to ensure victims get input into the criminal justice system.
I support animal rights. I’ve secured $440,222.63 in restitution for the local humane society in an appellate case.
I obtained the only first-degree murder jury verdicts in Warren County in 30 years. That includes the two district attorneys before me. I’ve prosecuted seven homicides, including a 12-year-old cold case, and there was a conviction in every single one. I’ve never lost a homicide case. Five of them received life sentences.
I’ve prosecuted thousands of criminal cases with a 96 percent conviction rate and I stand by my record. I can keep doing this. I can keep convicting them.