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Falling short in administration of justice | In Our Opinion
The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office didn’t give the Dunker family adequate notification of the sentencing date for the man convicted of killing their family member.
As a result, the family didn’t get to make or submit a victim impact statement at the sentencing. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, the purpose of victim impact statements is to allow crime victims, during the decision-making process on sentencing, to describe to the court the impact of the crime. A judge may use information from these statements to help determine an offender’s sentence.
County Prosecutor Russell Hauge told the Herald that the notification is usually sent by regular mail “that working day or the next working day.” Casey Cutlip was found guilty of second-degree murder on Wednesday, Dec. 11. The sentencing was scheduled that day, for Friday, Dec. 27.
Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Pendras said a letter was mailed Tuesday, Dec. 17 – four working days after the sentencing was scheduled. The victim’s family, in Casa Grande, Ariz., said the letter was postmarked Friday, Dec. 20. They received it the day of sentencing.
Hauge told the Herald, “It’s our responsibility to maintain contact and inform the victim’s family. If a mistake was made, it’s our mistake. But I’m not in a position to say a mistake was made.”
Clearly, a mistake was made. And as head of the prosecuting attorney’s office, Hauge must determine how it happened. Regarding the Dunker family, what is the proper response: A letter of apology? Indeed. Allowing the family to add a statement to the record? Yes. Ensuring such a mistake doesn’t happen again? Definitely.
Pierce County erred in its handling of Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Barbara O. Dennis’s DUI case. Kitsap County asked Pierce County to handle the case to avoid a conflict of interest.
A lot was at stake for Dennis. She was charged with DUI, a gross misdemeanor, and was thus able to request deferred prosecution through Drug Court and was able to keep her job. If she had been charged with vehicular assault, a felony, she would not have been eligible for Drug Court and, if convicted, would have lost her job.
Pierce County charged Dennis with DUI – without following up on the condition of the woman whose car Dennis plowed into. In fact, prosecutors didn’t even know the woman’s name. She was indeed injured; whether her injuries rise to the level required to warrant a vehicular assault charge … well, Pierce County prosecutors didn’t even check before making their decision.
Justice was not equitably served in the Barbara Dennis case.