[nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″] attorney Mark Friese discusses the legal process that was used to reach a plea agreement in Danny Heinrich’s child pornography case.
Danny Heinrich’s Plea Agreement
Here is a full transcription from the interview:
Joel: Mark Friese is in studio. Obviously, the big story that’s going on in the area…well, there’s a couple big stories, but we’re gonna touch on this one first, the case of Jacob Wetterling.
There’s an evil, evil man that Danny Heinrich is an individual that abducted Jacob. Now we know that. We know that he sexually assaulted him. We know that he killed him. That’s what we know. We know where he buried him first, we know where he buried him second. We know all of these gruesome details. In fact, we’re gonna get a chance later to talk with a reporter from WCCO that was in the room when all of this was being discussed. So we’ll get a chance to visit with her about that, and she’s been covering this live all along. But what keeps coming at me as a talk show host from many of you, is the process itself. Because there’s many people who don’t feel as though Mr. Heinrich has, in any way, shape, or form received justice. That justice has not been done. That any plea agreement that simply allows you to find the remains of Jacob and puts you in a position where he is not being prosecuted for murder, that that isn’t right.
And so, I thought, you know, I know somebody who’s been involved on all sides of these issues, as a law enforcement officer, as a defense attorney, as somebody who understands when it’s time to put somebody away, and that’s Mark Friese with the [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″]. Mark, good to have you back on News and Views.
Mark: Good to be here, Joel.
Joel: All right, let’s talk just a little bit about what was going through the prosecutors’ minds. If you had to envision what they had to be wrestling with at a time like this, what do you think that they were doing?
Mark: Well, the information I have is anecdotal. My understanding about how this came about is that the defense lawyer for Mr. Heinrich approached the prosecutor and said, “We have a story to tell, and we can give you information that will bring closure to this 27-year-old case. But before we do that, we want some consideration and we want some consolation.” At the time that this approach was made, Mr. Heinrich was under indictment in federal court for possessing child pornography. He was the subject of an investigation of a number of sexual assaults, many of which the statutes of limitation had run, so he could not be prosecuted for.
And, taking that information and the prosecutor, in conjunction with local law enforcement, with local prosecutors, approached the families of these victims and said, “We can bring closure to this case. The consideration that we will have to provide is that he gets a maximum sentence on the federal charge, with no companion state charges.” I understand that people are upset about that, that it appears that he’s escaping justice, but I can tell you, a 20-year federal prison sentence for a convicted child molester certainly is not an easy sentence. There’s no parole in the federal system, and this is a 53-year-old man who will be dead by the time that sentence is served.
Joel: So let’s assume, just for debate’s sake, he isn’t. Twenty years, 53-year-old man, 73 years old at the time that he would get out of federal prison and have served that time. Is he still subject to civil commitment? Is he still somebody that you do not, in any way, shape or form let loose on society?
Mark: Yeah, there’s no question Mr. Heinrich is never gonna see the outside world again. He will be civilly committed. At present, there are nine, I think nine, cases that he’s being investigated for, older cases. Another suspect in the Wetterling disappearance who had dated Heinrich’s mother, by the name of Dwayne Hart, is actually a convicted pedophile in Minnesota, who was a suspect in the Wetterling disappearance, but he’s now civilly committed as well. I think the same fate is gonna befall on Mr. Heinrich as Mr. Hart is enduring currently. He will be committed. He’ll never see the light of day.
Joel: This is a terrible, terrible tragic day to bring this up, I realize that, but I’ve got to go on that thin ice and bring this up with you. When people sit across the table from somebody like you, and you know that they’re evil, that they don’t belong out in society, and yet you’ve got to look out for their best interests because that’s what you’re paid to do. You’re paid to be their advocate. How do you make that work, Mark? I mean, I know you. How does somebody like you sit there and speak to a prosecutor and say, “Look, I’ve got something you need. Let’s make a deal”?
Mark: I get asked that question a lot. And as a person of faith, I get asked that question by people in the faith community. I get asked by my family. I get asked by my friends. I view my role really no differently as a defense attorney than I did as a police officer or 24 years in the United States military. I raised my hand and took an oath, and I took an oath to defend the Constitution and my country as a soldier. As a police officer, I took an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution and enforce the laws of the city in which I worked and in the state in which I lived. And as a defense attorney, I’ve taken an oath to zealously represent the interests of my clients. That means that my obligation is to represent that client to the best of my ability.
Now, I’m fortunate because I work in private practice. If I have a client that comes in and I just don’t think that I can meet that obligation, I have the right to decline that representation. My colleagues, on the other hand, who are handling appointed work and they have no choice, it’s a much more difficult proposition. But the bottom line is, our system is designed so that each side has an adversary and an advocate to represent their interests. I don’t determine moral guilt. I don’t judge moral guilt. I don’t make the factual decisions in the case. I present the best case that I can for my client and make sure that the government meets its burden of proof.
Joel: So if you were…let’s put you on both sides of this. Obviously, if you were defending Danny Heinrich and you looked at this case with child pornography, you could easily make a case that the maximum sentence without any chance of parole. You obviously knew he was guilty of that, you’re gonna put yourself in a position where you are gonna plea something out here, and you’re gonna make sure that happens. But if you’re the prosecutor, let me put you in just the hypothetical, you’re in the shoes of the prosecutor, how tough do you think they had to wrestle with this?
Mark: Well, it’s ultimately the prosecutor’s decision. But as you’ve pointed out, the families, the victim’s families have a central role here. The prosecutor will come to the family and say, “Look, we’ve got a 27-year-old case. We don’t know where Jacob’s remains are. If we cooperate and we have Mr. Heinrich involved in this, we’ll find Jacob and we’ll put him to rest.” So we have no corpus, or what the law refers to as the body. We have no witnesses other than two boys who saw a masked man abduct their friend and brother. We have 27 years of intervening time that has taken place. We likely have no DNA evidence. Statutes of limitation have run on some of the lesser charges. Murder is still available. We have distant and faint memories, we have searches that have taken place at other locations. We have publicly identified at least four other suspects in addition to Mr. Heinrich. And unless he tells us what happened, we have no clue what occurred.
Joel: And, for 20-plus years he never told anyone what happened. I mean, that’s the other thing that I keep trying to remind myself as I deal with my anger of, hey, we didn’t get a rope and a Cotton Wood tree and just solve this issue here. The fact is, for 20-plus years, he kept this thing a secret, right down to the fact where he could walk you right up to where he buried the body.
Mark: He could. And took them there and allowed this family to put their son to rest. A lot of people say that justice wasn’t done. I think other people would say that justice was done. This man had to stand up in open court and admit the deplorable crimes that he committed. A lot of people would say, well, there are 25 counts in the federal indictment, why did he plead to one? Under the federal sentencing guidelines, those counts would have been grouped together anyway for sentencing purposes, and it’s unusual, very unusual, to have a maximum sentence in federal court. So this sentence is long, it’s harsh, it may not appear to be justice, but in many respects it is. And the most important part of all of this is that the families were consulted and closure has been brought.
Joel: Mark Friese, attorney with the [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″]. When we come back, Mark, ponder this, because people are gonna want to be able to ask you some questions, but one of the questions they have, and don’t answer this until we come back, is can the judge revoke the deal? Is the judge in on the deal? Just the sheer mechanics of the process, I think people are looking for.
We got the man here, Mark Friese, that can answer some of your questions. He’ll take your calls at 237-594-81, 866-771-9930. We’re talking about…I just don’t even feel good saying his name, but you gotta to explain it…Danny Heinrich who is the murderer, the child molester, the man that now is gonna be put away for 20 years in federal prison. Before we go back to the phone lines here, though, Mark, I want to say this, the average life expectancy in federal prison is?
Mark: Sixty-three, 65 years old.
Joel: It’s not a good place.
Joel: It’s not a good place. And if you’re a child molester?
Mark: There’s a social pecking order in prisons, and at the very lowest end, or about as low as you can get, are those who are convicted of child molestation, or pedophile, or pedophilia type crimes.
Joel: Them and snitches are the worst.
Mark: The absolute worst. Mr. Heinrich is going to have a very rough 20 years ahead of him, or whatever time it takes for him to live out his life.
Joel: As somebody’s saying, what role does the judge play in all of this? Can he say, “No, that isn’t enough”?
Mark: That’s a great question. It depends on how the plea agreement was actually structured. My guess is that the agreement, in this case, is going to bind the judge to either accept it or reject it. And you know, I don’t think this is a tough case for the judge, where a defendant is coming in in federal court, pleading to one of the federal charges and agreeing to the maximum sentence. The judge will, in my view, take that agreement. The judge, however, could reject it. My guess is that the agreement that they brokered would provide that any of the statements that Mr. Heinrich made in the debriefing or providing information could not be used against him in a subsequent proceeding if the judge rejects the agreement.
The other issue too, Joel, I suspect that they did not account for the fact that the Wetterling family can now sue Mr. Heinrich in civil court. So even though he’s not going to be prosecuted criminally as a result of this, it may open up the door for a civil lawsuit if Mr. Heinrich has some type of estate or assets that could be used for the benefit of the Wetterling family.
Joel: Is there a method where, as a prosecutor, you can go to the judge prior to making an agreement like this and say, “Will you sign off on it”?
Mark: No. The judge is supposed to be neutral and detached, and the judge is supposed to be considering and evaluating things in open court, not behind closed doors. The public has a right to be there. Most states and the federal government do not allow the judges to become involved in the plea negotiation or plea bargaining process.
Joel: Okay. Let’s go to the phone lines and get to Ron. Ron, you’re…hold on a second, Ron. I’m gonna put you on hold because you’re off subject to what we’re getting at. I promise I will get to you. Tom, you’re on News and Views. Go ahead, Tom.
Tom: Hello. I want you to know that God himself could not have explained this situation better than Mark Friese. He’s God’s gift to the legal world. He’s the best there is. And when he talks about Marcy’s Law, listen to him.
Joel: I agree. I totally agree. In fact, thank you for that call. There’s gonna come a day where I’m gonna call you and we’re gonna go over this Marcy’s Law. This railroad train is running through and people aren’t getting it, and we’ve gotta make sure they get that side of it.
Mark: I recognize that voice. Good morning, Judge. He speaks eloquently as well about the pitfalls of Marcy’s Law.
Joel: Well, it’s ridiculous what it’s about to cost this state, the fact that we’re already doing the things that we’re being accused of not doing, that they didn’t go through the proper legal process, that they were afraid to take this to the legislature itself, that they’re going directly to the Constitution, and that some drugged up guy out in California is pouring millions of dollars into North Dakota, trying to define our Constitution. I don’t like it.
Mark: I don’t either.
Joel: And I’m gonna go to war against it. I’m just waiting my time before we do it.
Mark: As we’re talking about a case in which prosecutors and law enforcement across the state of Minnesota, on both the federal and state level, approached the family and did everything necessary to make sure the families’ interests [inaudible 00:12:24].
Joel: And Judge Davis would get that. That really this is a perfect example of how law enforcement didn’t give up on that victimized family. But when they got to the point…before they ever talked to us, they went and talked to the families. They sat down and they worked all of this out. I mean, that’s how the system should work. Let’s get to Kenny. Kenny, you’re on News and Views.
Kenny: How can somebody like Heinrich, and there was other personnel in the form, get 20 to 15 years in prison, but then somebody who is a drug dealer gets life?
Mark: Kenny, that’s a great question. And I agree with the implicit message in your question. We’ve been sold a bill of goods, in my book, about minimum mandatory sentences, both at the federal and state level, where we have people that are addicted to controlled substances and are getting very, very long-term sentences under minimum mandatory penalties that have been promulgated both by Congress and by the legislature. There’s a big movement affront across the country, Kenny, both at the federal and state level to rectify the injustice that we’ve really kind of inflicted on our communities. But there is a disparity, and it’s a disparity that needs to be corrected.
Joel: It already was a problem. I’m not pinning this strictly on Republicans, because Democrats are equally as guilty, who’s ever the tougher, who’s ever the one that…but it began when every person that ever used drugs in their life became Willy Horton. And that was the campaign where everything started being three strikes and you’re out. America was in the middle of a drug fight in Columbia. We were stationed all over the world trying to stop all this flow of illegal drugs in. And so, George H. Bush decided, “You know what, I know what’s gonna win me this election: three strikes and you’re out. You’re going to jail and you’re going to jail forever.”
So, a guy gets caught for the third time with a joint in his lapel pocket, and the next thing you know, you’re sitting there with absolutely no recourse for any client you have. And now what do we have? We have more people in prison than in any other industrialized nation, period. And they’re not working, they could be working. You talk to game wardens and you say okay…game wardens. I mean wardens of the prison, and you say, “Okay, how many of these guys need to be in here?” And they look at you and they say, “Over half of them could be out working.” I mean, they’re no threat to society, they were druggies.
Mark: I had the pleasure a year ago to sit and listen to two people on stage from a Washington, D.C. think-tank and from the American Civil Liberties Union, as far left and as far right as you can get, and they were addressing a single audience with the same message: We need to change our drug laws.
Joel: Well, and the upside, if there is one, is I think both sides of the aisle now are waking up because they know they’ve both been accomplices in making sure that who could be the tougher was the way to get elected, and they’re waking up to the fact that we just can’t afford this.
Mark: We need room in prison for people like Heinrich.
Joel: Exactly! That’s the guy. That’s the guy. You know what? The best news that I got today was when you told me what his life expectancy was. Let’s hope it’s less. Okay. Let’s hope it’s less. Mark, thank you. I know how busy you are and you took the time to come over today. If you have more time, I’ll take it. I’ve got calls lined up, you want to?
Mark: I’m happy to stick around. I like visiting with Cally better than you anyway, so.
Joel: Really? Really?
Cally: Smart man.
Joel: What color is Cally’s shirt today?
Joel: I would say peach, with a little bit of salsa splattered all over it. We’ll be back with more right after this.
Number of questions coming in by text, we held on to them. Mark Friese, by the way, I’m not paying you any retainer. It’s good to be able to get an attorney of his caliber in here for free. He is with the [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″]. He’s taking your questions on the situation with Jacob Wetterling and the plea agreement that was reached. Let’s get to Corey [SP]. Corey, you’re on with Mark.
Corey: Hey Mark, I’ve got a question for you. If you’re defending these scumbags, and you find out what they really did, in my world I cannot see how you [inaudible 00:16:42 to 00:16:44].
Joel: I’m having a hard time hearing you, Corey. Speak into your phone. Okay, I think I got it. I think the message was how you defend these guys, scumbags, how you can look at yourself in the mirror kind of a question.
Mark: Sure. It is, Corey, and good morning. I think I got it. Clients disclose confidences to us all the time. I’ve had clients that have confessed to crimes, and just like the person who walks into a confessional at the Catholic church or speaks privately with their pastor, their psychotherapist, that communication is protected. I can’t disclose what my client has told me unless I’m ordered to or unless there’s an exception, which there are very few of. And I oftentimes have clients who come into my office and confess to doing what they did.
That doesn’t mean that I have some lesser obligation to make sure that the state still fulfills its obligations at trial. Meaning this: I’m still going to put the state to its burden of proving a person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, because, in the criminal court, it’s about whether the person is gonna be subjected to penalties by the government. Moral guilt, moral responsibility, that’s all a higher authority outside my purview.
Joel: Okay. Let’s get to Jimmy. Jimmy, you’re on with Mark.
Jimmy: Good morning.
Joel: Good morning, Jimmy.
Jimmy: I just had a comment that was talked about a little earlier before the break, that these are just druggies and we shouldn’t maybe look at them as serious as some of our other felons. But, working in the industry, I have never seen too many that are just classified as just druggies, because most of the time, I would say over 80% of the time, there’s other crimes that have been washed and they’ve pled down to just being a druggie. And most of those times, they have committed other crimes against other people, against properties in Minnesota. But I’m sure Minnesota…it ain’t just Minnesota, it’s every state that we’re dealing with across the U.S. But most of our murders, most of our rapists are just the druggies. So when you have our government saying they want to release 40,000 drug-related convictions out of prisons, watch our rapes go up and our murders go up. And the things that created those people to get their drugs are probably…
Joel: So Jimmy, I’ve got to ask you this, though. How do we pay for all of it? How do we fix it? If you worked in the system that long and you have that level of knowledge, how do we pay to keep that many people in prison?
Jimmy: You know, working the streets, I don’t have an answer for that. As I’m working the streets, I don’t like to see us…just like releasing the people from Guantanamo, I don’t like to see our prisons opened up. So we have to go back and put our lives on the line again to put them back in prison.
Joel: No, I get what you’re getting at. Thanks, Jim. Thanks for calling. And I think he probably is making a good point in that if you’ve hit rock bottom, you’re out there completely addicted to drugs, it’s not gonna stop you from stealing something to go ahead and feed that habit.
Mark: It’s easy to throw statistics out and say 80% committed other crimes. I’ll tell you this, 100% of those people have committed crimes. Dealing in, using, selling and buying controlled substances is a crime. They’re all criminals, there’s no question about that. But, the larger question, is the societal impact. Can we treat these people? Can we monitor them? Can we supervise them? Can we return them to productivity without costing the taxpayers a whole bunch of money? And I believe that we can. By simply taking these people and putting them in prison for 27 years, which is a common sentence even in state courts in North Dakota, for selling marijuana, it’s not making a lot of sense.
Joel: Here’s a statistic that I don’t know the exact answer to, but I work at a radio station, okay. You want to get stereotypical, I work at a radio station. How many people walking around here do you think have ever smoked pot? That would be a crime.
Joel: Right. And years ago, it was a way bigger crime.
Mark: And there’s a lot of crime, I can tell you this having served as a police officer and having represented hundreds of people over the 17 years that I’ve been a lawyer. Alcohol causes as much criminality as drugs, if not more. The domestic assault incidences, the courageousness that results from somebody being drunk and feeling bullet-proof, burglaries, robberies, all sorts of other crimes are induced by alcohol as well. The fact that somebody is taking controlled substances or using controlled substances and the fact that we’re putting people in prison for long periods of time simply because they’re drug dealers or simply because they have drug habits just doesn’t cut it with me. And I agree, I’m not disagreeing with what was said by the caller at all. People who are committing drug offenses are committing other offenses as well, but if you fix the drug problem and make them productive, they’re not gonna be committing other crimes.
Joel: We’re creating social levels for this as well now, Mark. I don’t know if you’ve picked up on this. But this is where I get in trouble with bis sis and others who are out there trying to fight the opioid issue, right? You’re sitting here with a guy that’s got two fake knees in him. I know what it’s like to have a knife put to you. I know what it’s like to have your bones cut off. So I’m sitting here as somebody who has felt pain, to great levels. I never took the stuff that I could’ve took because it put me in gaga land, just drove me nuts. So I never took it. I took what I could just to get by during the day. But now we’ve got this whole class of people who said, “Well, I got addicted to pain killers. It’s the painkillers. It’s the painkillers.” And they’re deemed to be all right, because it’s the pain killers. You see what I’m getting at here?
Mark: I am.
Joel: It’s like…and because it’s a certain class of people that have very connected to society, we’ve made that out to be…to the point where last night we’re raising a mill in Fargo because we have to fight this issue. And I’m not trying to say that the chief isn’t doing his job, but we’re adding police force directly for that when it wouldn’t have been 15 years ago and many of these same people at the same income class level, at the same social class level, they would’ve been told, “Go to prison.”
Mark: And I’ve seen that too, Joel. I mean, the number of good families with 15, 16, 17-year-old kids who are addicted to opiates that have been in my office. The productive 45-year-old who’s worked at the same job for 20 years who comes in with an opiate or methamphetamine addiction and finds themselves writing bad checks across the state. Drugs do not discriminate based on social class or categories.
Joel: Exactly. Exactly, but the law does.
Mark: Law does.
Joel: Law does.
Mark: We treat…
Joel: And this is the point that I was trying to get at, is you mentioned alcohol, which is spot-on right. Way more families have been wrecked by alcohol than any other substance. Agreed?
Mark: I agree.
Joel: Okay, so now we’re sitting here talking about opioids and what they do to society and how we’ve got to get our arms around this, not treat them as criminals, get them in for substance abuse, those type of things. Where if we had that same debate about somebody on skid row taking meth, it’d be, “Loser. Put him away.”
Mark: And we’ve distinguished between crack cocaine and cocaine, and we’ve made these distinctions really that [inaudible 00:23:57].
Joel: It’s about social stature.
Mark: It is about social stature. And we’re starting to realize publicly, and as a nation, we’re starting to realize that these are people who have addictions no different than an addiction to alcohol, no different than an addiction to gambling, no different than any other type of an addiction. It’s just that we’ve…some countries have decriminalized drugs entirely. I don’t agree with that philosophy. I think that they need to be controlled, but we need to take a different approach.
Joel: I had a Libertarian candidate for Congress in here saying, “Make them legal. Make them legal and just let people do what they do, and then they gotta live with their consequences.” And I thought, man, I am so not there. But at least he had the courage to say it. Let’s get to Tim. Tim, you’re on with Mark Friese. Go ahead.
Tim: What you just said about legalizing stuff and people doing what they do, all they’re gonna do…I mean, you know, it’s like people who say legalize marijuana, because it’s not people driving fast. Back in my teens and 20s, I smoked plenty of weed. But you space out stop signs, you forget about this, you forget about that. You’re still not gonna see the pedestrian. Now, the person that says go ahead and legalize it because you’re not gonna hurt anybody, a 3,000-pound vehicle hitting a pedestrian is still killing somebody. It’s ridiculous to try to legalize any drug, especially if these politicians want to do it for tax money. I think it’s ridiculous.
And the alcohol. My wife is an alcoholic, and it’s destroying our family. What you need to do is have a treatment standard. You’ve got to go to treatment, and you don’t get out of jail until you go through treatment. And fining people, whether it’s for alcohol or drugs, is wrong because you’re taking money from the family. What you’ve got to do is you’ve got to put them in jail and you’ve got to put them in treatment. They have to go through treatment whether they want to or not. My wife goes to AA and she sees teens come through there because they have to for their parole. It’s part of what they have to do, is go through AA. They’re sitting there watching the minutes tick by. They don’t want to be there. But if you put them in a program where they have to go through, it’s the only chance you have.
Joel: Thank you, Tim, appreciate it. And some of the things he just talked about, actually if it works the right way, saves me money.
Mark: I agree with Tim. We have to treat people. I don’t agree that we have to imprison people because they have an addiction.
Joel: To treat them. Here’s the other part. If you’re in Western North Dakota right now, where many people right now are listening to you, do you know how many drug and addiction counselors they have in Western North Dakota, west of the river?
Mark: About 80% fewer than they need.
Joel: I think somebody told me at one point two. They have two. And you know what? If you want to get on the date to get scheduled to have that conference, make it a year in advance. And so, there’s issues about that. Gary, you’re on with Mark Friese. Go ahead, Gary.
Gary: Okay, Mark. I’ve got one quick point to make. I know you guys were talking about jails being overcrowded, and my point is, why is someone on death row gonna be there for 30 or 40 years? We’ve got Alphonso [SP] on there for 13 years, and the only person making money and hurting the family is the lawyers. That’s my only point.
Joel: Thanks, Gary, appreciate it. He brings up a point many people are thinking, which is people like you that defend these folks, keep them alive longer than what they should be after sentenced to death. What’s your thoughts on that?
Mark: Well, you can say that maybe our system has some faults with the application and interpretation and use of the death penalty. I grew up in a family where I believed in the death penalty all the way through my years of service in law enforcement. I thought the death penalty was a good thing. My views have changed. I don’t think it’s a good thing. I think it costs too much money, I think it’s ineffective, I don’t think there’s a deterrent effect. The Alphonso Rodriguez case, in my view, is a very good example of that. He has cost the taxpayers an enormous amount of money to launch a fight against him being put to death for a crime that he deserves to be put to death for, but one that he’s gonna die a natural death in prison of anyway.
But that’s another philosophical debate I think worthy of a great deal of discussion. The death penalty is probably not very effective. And in cases like…coming back to the Heinrich matter, if this gentleman comes in and says, “I’ll plead guilty and go to prison for 20 years if you spare me the death penalty,” think of the money and the time and the consternation that we as a society have saved. But more importantly, think about the benefits to the family of these victims that don’t have to go through these continuous court appeals and processes that result from death penalty cases.
Joel: Drew’s mother very much supports the death penalty. In this case, how much do family’s views weigh in? I know that Drew Wrigley [SP], at that time, was U.S. Attorney. He wanted this case very badly. He knew that there was a transfer from Minnesota, or from North Dakota to Minnesota, which allowed the feds to be involved in it. He pushed for the death penalty. A lot of people now coming out and saying, look, this man, mentally, he himself had been sexually abused as a young man. He has an IQ of, what, 80-something. He simply is not somebody who knew, other than what he was trained to be, knew what he was doing. Others say just the opposite, “Kill him. He deserves to be killed. Get rid of him. It’s justice. The sooner he’s off this earth…do it the Russian way. Don’t even have a debate. Just get it done. And, we’ll be a better society if he’s gone.” I mean, how do you weigh those things, Mark?
Mark: Well, we’re not Russia, and we have a system of justice that’s founded on principles that everyone is gonna be entitled to a fair shake and to make the government prove its case. I’m not privy to the discussions that led up to the Alphonso Rodriguez prosecution. What I can tell you is that I know that the family was consulted. I know that the family had input. I think that prosecutors, both at the federal and state level across North Dakota, do a fantastic job of consulting victims before making major decisions like “Are we gonna pursue the death penalty, or are we gonna pursue charges that may be difficult to prove?”
We kind of go full circle here this morning, I think it takes us right back to the issue that took place with the Jacob Wetterling case, is that these dedicated professional prosecutors care about what the families want and they’re gonna weigh…
Joel: Boy, it really showed in the Wetterling case. It just showed how connected prosecution and law enforcement was with Patty and her family. If there’s a better mother in the world out there, I just don’t know who it is. Mark, you gave me a bunch of time. Thank you, sir.
Mark: My pleasure.
Joel: Mark Friese with the [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″].