Be prepared could also be district attorney's motto

A good deal of the work the district attorney's office does happens well before they enter the courtroom or meet the defendant.

Clarisa Folsom, office manager for the 22nd Judicial District, said the first thing the DA's office does is pull the court docket to see what cases or arrests have been made.

A new district attorney, two new deputy district DAs, a new investigator and a mostly new staff are reasons why the office is learning things on the fly.

Often times the court docket is the only way the district attorney's office will learn what criminal cases are pending.

Folsom said this is when the real work begins. Police reports need to be found before looking at the criminal past and history of the accused.

Getting copies of what was filmed by surveillance cameras - if one was used - is also crucial.

She said all of this needs to be in place so there are no surprises when the DA or a deputy DA steps into the courtroom.

District Attorney Will Furse said his office has a lot of obligations that take time and energy.

"It's a very complicated and time-consuming process to comply with all of the law mandates," Furse said.

The office manager said the amount of information needed depends on how big a case is, explaining that a no proof of insurance case requires minimal expertise while a sex assault case requires extensive research.It takes a while to receive all the necessary information.

Theft and vandalism, she said, are perfect examples in why a case could take longer because the defendant could be accused of numerous acts.

Folsom also mentioned the time it takes to receive reports from each agency if more than one was involved in the incident.

"We are waiting for all of the important information," she said. "There's just a lot of information that takes time to get."

But there are exceptions to the rules, which she said is a motto the office lives by.

Citations or tickets rarely make their way into the courtroom as the vast majority will pay the fine rather than attend a court proceeding. Most tickets must be paid within 90 days.

Folsom said when there is a death in the 22nd Judicial District the DA's office is notified immediately, even if the case is at first not considered to be a homicide.

The decision on any charge, she said, rests with the DA's office, though it is common for law enforcement to advise and recommend their thoughts on the proper filing.

"We may need assistance on what to charge, but we will be the ones filing the charges," Folsom said.

For less serious charges when defendants decide to waive legal counsel they are given the opportunity to discuss a plea agreement with the DA's office almost immediately from their initial appearance.

Folsom said individuals who commit the more serious cases like murder, rape or robbery, almost always have an attorney, so any plea offer will be made in the future closer to trial when defendants weight their options.

"District attorneys always have a plea ready for (less serious) crimes," she said."

And behind the scenes is DA investigator Tom Seymour who is charged with finding the information for prosecutors to be successful at trial.

Folsom said this position is vital, especially for motions that are filed, the preliminary hearings and especially the trials.

"That is the part he gets involved in," she said, and added Seymour does the final touches and final interviews when the district attorney feels he needs more information than what is readily available.

"Most times it is up to the investigator (to get that extra information)," she said.

While police may categorize a particular offense one way, most law enforcement officers leave the charges up to the district attorney's office.

The office manager for the DA's office also said an arrest does not mean there will be any charges, commonly called a no file.

When a person is arrested a prosecutor is assigned to the case instantly as Lynda Carter handles all cases with odd numbers while Deborah Eurich takes the cases with the even numbers.

Each district attorney in the 22nd judicial district also has an expertise in certain case areas.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com