Prosecutors seek justice
ALPENA — The goal of a prosecutor is not to seek conviction.
It is to seek justice, Alcona Count Prosecutor Tom Weichel said.
That means the truth has to be found and shared in court, according to three county prosecutors who talked about their jobs with The News:
BIG-PICTURE, WHAT IS YOUR JOB?
Cynthia Muszynski, Alpena County prosecutor: “My job as prosecutor is to ensure justice is served in the cases that come before me and to work toward a better, safer community. The greatest responsibility of the prosecutor is the ability to decide which cases to plea — thereby controlling the outcome of a case to a certain extent — and which to run the risk of taking to trial.”
Ken Radzibon, Presque Isle County prosecutor: “The role of the prosecutor is to see justice and, at the same time, make sure the rights of the accused are protected. A prosecutor reviews investigative reports submitted by law enforcement agencies and determines what, if any, criminal charges should be filed. Once charges are filed, it is the prosecutor’s role to represent the people of the state of Michigan and the victim (or victims) until the case is concluded.”
Tom Weichel, Alcona County prosecutor: “My primary responsibility is to seek justice (not just merely convict), which can only be achieved by the representation and presentation of the truth. This responsibility includes, but is not limited to, ensuring that the guilty are held accountable, the innocent are protected from unwarranted harm, and the rights of all participants, particularly victims of crime, are respected.”
WHAT ARE THE TOOLS YOU HAVE AT YOUR DISPOSAL TO DO THAT JOB?
Muszynski: “The greatest tools I have are relationships with various entities, first and foremost the law enforcement agencies. In cases of child physical and sexual abuse, the Prosecutor’s Office greatly benefits from the hard work of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Northeast Michigan.”
Radzibon: “The tools I have to accomplish my job are the law enforcement agencies I work with and the staff I have at my office. Without their assistance and support, I could not do my job effectively. I should also mention the county commissioners as support, as well. They fund my office, not only for staff, but law library, office equipment, and supplies.”
Weichel: “The primary tools available are the laws that have been enacted to protect society and our community from harm. In conjunction with the laws are, of course, law enforcement officers who take oaths to uphold the laws.”
WHAT’S SOMETHING PEOPLE THINK YOU CAN DO BUT YOU CAN’T?
Muszynski: “There is the misconception that all cases that are charged will be able to go to trial. With well over a thousand cases charged every year in Alpena County, it’s physically impossible to have a trial on even a majority of the cases, let alone have those trials within a timely manner.”
Radzibon: “Many people think prosecutors initiate investigations. This is not true. Citizens contact law enforcement, who then investigate the situation and report to my office. Occasionally, citizens will contact my office first about a problem, and, in those cases, we will ask law enforcement to investigate.”
Weichel: “The largest and most forbearing issue is time and financial support of the criminal justice system. People seem to believe that we have the time to treat every case as if it were the only case, when, in fact, prosecutors’ offices around this state are overburdened and underfunded.”