Editor: I’m responding to Ellie Lockwood’s letter supporting prosecutor Nicole Wittman for Commonwealth Attorney while denigrating her opponent Buba Biteraj’s record as a defense attorney, and Jennifer Wexton’s record as a former prosecutor.
Ms. Lockwood shows ignorance of how our judicial system works, along with a lack of respect for its foundations – including the presumption of innocence and the right to a full and vigorous defense for every person charged with a crime.
A prosecutor’s job is to prove guilt of the crimes charged beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of the defendants’s peers. Sometimes the prosecutor’s job is to recognize that the proof – beyond a reasonable doubt – does not exist, and justice is better served by a guilty plea to lesser charges. Is Ms. Lockwood saying that Nicole Wittman has NEVER offered and accepted a guilty plea to lesser charges? Is she saying that Ms. Wittman has promised NEVER to do so in the future, in any case yet to come before her? I find that difficult to believe.
With respect to her complaints about Buta Biberaj’s role as a defense attorney: it is an uncomfortable principle of our judicial system that even those charged with the most heinous of crimes are entitled to a full and vigorous defense. Defense attorneys are ethically bound to make every honest effort to undermine the elements of proof in the prosecutor’s case and to mount a vigorous positive defense, all to convince the jury that there is reasonable doubt about the charges and the case presented. I am not appalled that Ms. Biberaj has embraced that philosophy in her practice, I applaud it.
Does Ms. Lockwood dispute this is the essence of our system, flawed in result though it might sometimes be? Is Ms. Lockwood advocating for going back to the days prior to the Magna Carta, which established key precedents for our judicial system? Does Ms. Lockwood believe that if you’re arrested and charged you must be guilty, with a trial and a defense neither needed nor allowed?
Personally, I believe both sides in our courtrooms are served best by those who vigorously defend our system of justice and the rights guaranteed within the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. I believe the years of defense experience Buta Biberaj brings with her will inform her role in crafting successful prosecutions within an enlightened judicial system.
It is possible to believe in both vigorous prosecution and vigorous defense.
Buta Biberaj has my vote.
Rosemary Lawler, Leesburg