My name is Paul B. Smith, and I am the District Attorney of Pontotoc, Seminole, and Hughes Counties. I had hoped the campaign in which I am involved would not devolve into a war of letters to the editor but would rather focus on the individual qualifications and character of the candidates. However, Josh Edwards, in his second letter to the editor, as well as in his campaign material, has raised the performance of the Ada office during the time when I was not the District Attorney. I simply must respond to his continued misrepresentation of the performance of the dedicated prosecutors who worked in the office before my taking over in 2017 and after.
In his campaign material made to fit on one’s doorknob, Mr. Edwards claims in large bold print at the top of the document that “Prosecutors lost 75 (percent) of jury trials in Ada since 2010.” This simply is not true. If one drops to the very bottom of that document, and perhaps breaks out a magnifying glass, they will see that Mr. Edwards puts in very fine, very faint print that this includes cases that resulted in a “lesser sentence than recommended by the prosecutor.” Let me explain what Mr. Edwards’ fine print means. If the prosecutor recommended seven years in prison, but a jury convicted the defendant and only gave the defendant five years in prison, Mr. Edwards would claim the prosecutor lost this case. This is the “logic” Mr. Edwards used in figuring his 75 percent claim. This claim is total nonsense.
In 32 years as a prosecutor, I never heard anyone call receiving less time than was recommended a loss. Further, after seeing this document, we have spoken with other prosecutors, former prosecutors and other lawyers, and all guffawed at the idea that this would be considered a loss by the prosecution. None of them had ever heard of this being considered a loss. When you examine it from the other side, the absurdity of it is clear. Can you imagine the defense attorney slapping his client on the back and saying “We won! You’re only going to prison for five years?!”
Mr. Edwards’ claim reminds me of the childhood question, how many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg? The answer is four. A tail is not a leg, no matter what you call it. Likewise, a jury convicting a defendant and giving less time than the prosecutor recommended is not a loss by the prosecution, no matter how Mr. Edwards’ attempts to spin it. Is it a loss when the football team wins in over time but doesn’t quite cover the point spread? Is it a loss when a jury returns a decision as to punishment that is less than or more than what a lawyer for one side or the other thought the case was worth? Do we want a D.A. that low-balls negotiation for victims and law enforcement? If you were a crime victim, would you want a D.A. that advocated for you and your case or one that short-sells your case in favor of giving some defense lawyer what they want for their guilty client? Perhaps we should examine the six wins in Edward’s eight-year career that he claims with the same magnifying glass and we will find that he paints his “wins” with the same brush that he sketches others’ so-called “losses.” If he did not get what he sued for or more, or when the jury imposes a harsher punishment than he thought was warranted, then we should count that as a loss using his logic. We would also find no felony jury trial record! Edward’s idea of wins and losses demeans the sacred legal institution of the jury system, demonstrates his inexperience and is again misinforming and misleading to readers.
Since I took office in 2017, prosecutors in the office have won all but two cases that were tried to a jury, one in which the M.E. could not settle on a cause of death in an alleged homicide case, and another involving a residual drug case after the passing of State Question 780, which in effect made the crime a misdemeanor. Rather, convictions for two murders, a child abuse case, a child rape and sodomy case, a child sexual abuse case, a deprived child and parental rights termination jury trial case and hundreds of other convictions by way of pleas of guilty and sentencing hearings have been adjudicated by prosecutors in the office. One of those convictions included the national award-winning prosecution in the “no-body” cold case resulting in 10 jury verdicts of guilty for child abuse and first-degree murder prosecuted by myself in Ada in October 2017. All of those cases would total a conviction rate of 99 percent or better throughout the district — yet another fact that Edwards omits.
Ironically, Mr. Edwards describes himself as HONEST and FAIR in his most recent campaign materials. The readers and voters can decide for themselves whether Mr. Edwards’s campaign material described the record of the Ada office or that of the rest of the district in an honest and fair manner, or whether it was intended to mislead the recipients of his campaign document. Do we want a district attorney with whom you have to check the fine print in order to understand the rest of the story or what the truth is?
So far, Mr. Edwards has attacked Mr. Peterson’s tenure and now the performance of the office during Mr. Ross’ tenure. To be clear, from 2008 to January 1, 2017, I was not supervising the jury trials in Ada. Mr. Ross was in charge of those prosecutions, and Mr. Edwards had to call convictions “losses” in order to criticize the performance of the office and explain how he defined a loss in teeny tiny fine print. Is that what we want in a District Attorney, someone who skews the truth and only in the fine print?
At some point, perhaps Mr. Edwards will discuss the time period that I have been in charge of the office, from January 1, 2017, until now. Or perhaps he will discuss some other part of my thirty-two-year award-winning career as a prosecutor. Perhaps, he will contrast that with his own so-called 6 “win” trial record. In the event he does, we should all keep a magnifying glass handy.
Paul B. Smith, District Attorney