Transition preparations

Incoming DA needs to do homework on current case load

Keywords: Poll question,

The current and future district attorney for the 22nd Judicial District are talking about their hopes for a smooth transition when Will Furse assumes the position in January.

Russell Wasley has held the position the last four years.

One big part of the transition will be the case load and the court proceedings that will be shifted to Furse if cases are not completed by the Wasley-led office.

Wasley said he does not think the change in DAs will be much of a problem.

“Transitions from one elected district attorney to another are common and normal throughout Colorado,” he said via email. “These transitions have taken place routinely for many, many years.”

He said people need to keep in mind that there is always a break between election dates and the dates elected officials are sworn in, and that this is true for federal, state, and local officials.

“Cases that are ongoing in January will simply be completed by Mr. Furse’s administration after he is sworn in Jan. 8,” Wasley said. “This is just the same as when I was sworn in, and when I took over from my predecessor, and just the same as for DAs before that.”

He said the trials and sentencings done in 2011 and 2012 will be completed, except for appeals, which are normally handled by the office of the attorney general.

“Cases not yet completed will be completed by Mr. Furse after he is sworn in. Pleas are not re-done, and such transitions are very routine throughout the state. There will be plenty of new cases that will be presented to the district attorney on and after Jan. 8, for consideration by the new administration,” he said in the email.

Wasley said he and Furse have already exchanged emails regarding the budget, and the anticipates a smooth and routine transition in which politics are not part of the process.

Furse defeated Wasley in the June Republican primary. After Andrew Hughes recently dropped his write-in campaign for the office, Furse will now be unopposed in the November election.

Furse said he is going to do everything in his power to learn about the ongoing cases and is hopeful he can start learning immediately by being allowed into the DA’s office.

The cases that are not finished by the end of Wasley’s term will have to be co-authored, Furse said, and added he may not disagree with the current DA’s decisions.

One important and high-profile case — the Luther Hampson murder trial — is expected to start with an arraignment today. It is likely that this case will not be finished by the end of Wasley’s term.

Furse said he will attend the Hampson hearings but is unsure how much information the DA’s office can share with him at this point.

Furse said he has essentially closed down his law practice where he worked as a defense attorney so he can concentrate on learning more about the current DA’s position.

He said that he’s thankful for the information provided by Wasley to this point. He also said the budget discussions are currently the extent of the communication he has had with the DA.

Furse conceded that he does think there will be some disadvantages coming into a case that he did not initiate, but on the serious cases he plans to do his homework thoroughly.

He also said he is not tied to any decisions Wasley’s office makes.

“I am not bound by the previous administration decisions,” he said, mentioning he can modify, dismiss or proceed with the case without making any changes.

“I might agree with the way the bulk of the cases (are being handled), but I have no obligation to proceed just because the current DA is proceeding that way,” Furse said. “I am not bound by Mr. Wasley’s decisions at all.”

He also believes cases — like the Hampson murder trial — should be heard by a grand jury, not heard by a judge at a preliminary hearing.

He also said that if the murder case were to proceed to trial it could take anywhere from nine months to a year for the case to be heard by a jury.

Furse said that many of the cases are handled by deputy DAs, some of whom might be back if they have a desire to stay and are rehired.

Furse said the decisions he makes to fill out his staff will not be known until after the general election in November.

“I am very hopeful Mr. Wasley will extend his hand to me so I can start learning sooner rather than later,” he said.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com