NORMAN — District attorneys headed to the state Capitol two days last week to inform lawmakers that they are running out of money to prosecute serious criminals like murderers and rapists.
“District attorneys now begin each day worrying not about the murder case their office will try, but about how they will fund a prosecutor to handle it,” said Suzanne McClain Atwood, executive director of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association.
The DAfs think it will only get worse next fiscal year unless the Legislature comes up with more money.
Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said the problem accelerated when “there was a judge choosing to send offenders to a private service,” rather than to the DA’s office.
This means that the district attorneys are losing a $40-a-month payment from defendants, he said, which comprises at least 20 percent of his budget.
Meanwhile, Special Judge Steve Stice has told the state court of criminal appeals that he assigns some cases to a private vendor because the DA’s office cannot provide the services offenders need to complete their terms of probation.
The appeals court sided with Judge Stice, stating that the judiciary needs to be able to assign an offender to be supervised by either the DA or a private service — whichever is more appropriate.
Meanwhile, Cleveland County judges are alarmed that the Legislature might halt private supervision entities from treating any defendants subject to the $40-a-month fee.
State Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, has filed Senate Bill 1038 that would eliminate private services groups from supervising offenders on probation. Sykes is judiciary chairman in the Senate.
Mashburn told The Transcript that it is not his wish that private supervision services to be blocked from getting cases.
“I will talk to Senator Sykes about that and see if we can get that changed,” said Mashburn, current president of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association.