Peace Officers

May 15 was designated as Peace Officers Memorial Day, during the week to be known as Police Week, by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. So many things have changed in the world of law enforcement, and our nation has lost so many officers since then. Still, police memorial services are held all over the country, flags are flown at half-staff, and the names are read aloud...the names of every officer who made the ultimate sacrifice and had their name engraved on the monument. 

 

If anyone has never attended a police memorial service, I urge you to come this Thursday to the Police Memorial Park behind the Hopkinsville Police Department. If the Color Guard and the 21 gun salute don't get your heart pounding, the playing of taps should at least give you chill bumps.

 

Our annual FOP Police Memorial always has an amazing crowd, with civilians and law enforcement officers from the U.S. Army, the Kentucky State Police, Christian County Sheriff's Office, Hopkinsville Police Department and various other law enforcement agencies. I am honored to work with these officers every day, and I am a proud member of the Fraternal Order of Police, Hopkinsville Lodge #12. Our secretary, Quentin Stone, may have said it best: "It’s been 16 years since we had a name engraved on the monument.  May we never have to engrave another."

 

During this Police Week, let us not just remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, but take this opportunity to show your gratitude to those men and women who have taken the risk of having their name engraved on that memorial. Those are the risk takers and peace makers who get up every day and strap on their gun, their bulletproof vest and their badge, knowing it could be their last. 

 

Please find a way to thank an officer - for answering that call, for safeguarding our lives and property, and for risking it all to protect and serve the people - even those who do not like or respect them. And, please join us at the Police Memorial Service, Thursday, May 18, at 4:30 p.m. at Police Memorial Park. You will not be disappointed. 

 

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Bring Back Bipartisanship

Per Wikipedia, bipartisanship is a political situation, especially in the context of a two-party system, as is the case for countries such as the United States and other western countries, in which opposing political parties find common ground through compromise. This is in contrast to partisanship, where an individual or political party only adheres to their interests without compromise. It has been debated among political theorists however that in practice, each party advances their own political agenda at the expense of the other party because of the conflicting ideologies.

 

During this first quarter of 2017, many U.S. citizens have found themselves in the midst of a political frenzy. After spending time in our state's and our nation's Capitol over the past few months, I've found myself wishing for more bipartisanship in our government. 

 

As a representative for the Regional Organized Crime Information Center ("ROCIC") and a member of both the National and Kentucky Narcotics Officer's Associations ("NNOA" and "KNOA"), I spent a week in January in Washington D.C. at a conference and visiting our Senators and Representatives on the Hill. As a female Democrat prosecutor, I was definitely the minority in meetings with primarily male Republican law enforcement officers and legislators. 

 

In February, I attended the winter conference for the Commonwealth's Attorney's Association. I also took advantage of a wonderful chance to attend a National District Attorney's Association ("NDAA") course in Savannah, GA. Both were fantastic opportunities to regroup from a crazy schedule and learn from and with some of the best prosecutors in the nation. Regardless of gender or party, prosecutors from across the nation seem to share a common bond and outlook on most issues, representing what I envision in a true bipartisanship arena. 

 

I also attended several sessions of the Kentucky legislative session in February and March, in my role as Commonwealth's Attorney as an advocate for certain legislation and as a participant in the 2017 Class of Emerge KY.  Unlike many other trips to the Capitol in our beautiful Commonwealth, I witnessed a noticeable void of the bipartisanship that I always enjoyed in Frankfort.

 

In this current state of our government, the male Republican clearly carries the biggest stick. More often than necessary, that stick is wielded in a way that flies in the face of bipartisanship. Part of the legislative process that always intrigued me was the sharing of ideas and information that helped lawmakers create bills that accurately reflect the diversity of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The opinions of citizens across the state were taken into account, expert and professional opinions were made more understandable and clear, and legislators made informed decisions for the betterment of all. Now, many pieces of legislation are proposed with minimal vetting, opinions of minority party members are stifled and votes most often fall straight down party lines. 

 

I miss bipartisanship. I miss days when there were checks and balances. I miss the good-hearted sparring between members of opposing parties. I miss knowing that laws were passed with input from both sides and based on the best interests of the citizens of the Commonwealth and the United States of America. I miss when common ground was discovered through common sense and compromise. 

 

Bring back bipartisanship. 

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Make a Difference

Today is the first time in 11 years that I have missed the annual MLK events here in Hopkinsville. My absence certainly is not a sign of indifference but more one of respect for the wellness of others. (I also didn't want my persistent cough to distract at all from the amazing sermon and singing that I know is taking place.) Still, I feel the need to reflect on some of the words and wisdom of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as it pertains to the job that faces myself and others tomorrow and all the days that follow. 

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These two quotes specifically stand out to me as I am challenged daily by those in our community who are afraid or unwilling to intervene, or at least speak up, when they see crimes committed - especially ones of a violent nature. While I can certainly appreciate the reality of one's fear of retaliation, to idly sit by and allow unjustified violence to occur is simply promoting and accepting these acts as part of our daily lives.  To those who find themselves in the position of being a witness to evil actions of others, please search your souls and think about these words spoken decades ago. 

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I realize that in this day and time, prosecutors and law enforcement have been villainized so publicly that it is hard to see that there are those of us who are dedicated to the fair and just pursuit of a peaceful society. We definitely do not do our jobs for fame and fortune, particularly when on a good day, we make more enemies than friends. However, without the presence of people who enforce the law, I feel sure that our community would succumb to the forces of evil. I cannot emphasize how important it is for the safety of everyone that people learn to do the courageous things that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged us to do all those years ago. Speak up about the things that matter and don't passively accept evil! 

In our community alone, violence has taken lives and broken the spirits of entirely too many individuals. Our court system is littered with cases in which cruel acts occurred, but witnesses are reluctant to speak out about it because they do not want to be involved. Maybe, if criminals knew that others would speak out against them, they would at least think twice before inflicting pain or death on someone else. Let today be the day that you take a stand against evil. You always have the ability to make a difference! Always!

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ALL LIVES MATTER

As I sat in court yesterday, I found myself reflecting on recent events and others dating back to September 11, 2001. I awoke to news reports of the shooting death of a trooper from a nearby Kentucky State Police post, and my heart is heavy for all those close to him. The law enforcement family across the Commonwealth and the nation, who I am proud to be associated with, are grieving the recent loss of entirely too many of our brothers and sisters. The threat of hatred faces them every day.

My office has been busy lately with jury trials, many of which involve violent assaults where the victims were shot or brutally attacked with firearms or other deadly objects. These are only a few of many similar violent crimes being prosecuted in Christian County, and, unfortunately, we know there are others that go unreported on a regular basis. Victims may fear retaliation or decide to take the law into their own hands. Either way, we have an inside look at every aspect of those violent crimes, yet I still cannot comprehend the complete disregard for the value of human life that seems to be more prevalent now than ever. 

After 9/11, there was a surge of pride and brotherhood among all U.S. citizens. We stood united against anyone who directed violence at us, and everyone was in shock, wondering how such evil could exist. Yet today, many seem to have lost sight of that mindset and have resorted to committing violent acts against each other.

WHY? 

High-profile crimes often encourage thoughts that they are racially motivated or justified because of police brutality or some other reason. Knowing that sometimes those situations do exist, I am also very aware that most of the violence today is senseless and completely unwarranted.

The acts of a few people within any race or occupation do not justify the mindless categorization of everyone within that group. Media accounts often sensationalize the bad apples, while those who are actually doing good are rarely recognized. In particular, there appears to be an attack, whether physical or verbal, against law enforcement as a whole. 

I have the distinct privilege of working with some of the finest police officers, deputies, detectives and state troopers In the world. But, I also realize that they are real people too. Their families bravely accept the risk that their loved ones may not return home each day that they put on their badge and police gear.  Yet, they do it anyway. They do it for us - because all lives do matter, and their job is "to protect and serve" - even the ones who hate them.

I write this as a plea to everyone to return to the unified front that we put on after our country was attacked. We face enough threats from the outside. We cannot fight and kill each other and expect our neighbors or peers to take up for us. 

Now is the time to step up and take our country, our states, our cities and our neighborhoods back. I realize this message may not reach the individuals that it needs to. But, if each of us reach out to others with love and encouragement, rather than hate and negativity, we can make a difference. By doing so, maybe the public in general will start to realize that police lives matter, black lives matter, white lives matter - ALL LIVES MATTER! 

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JURY SERVICE

Throughout my years of serving as your Commonwealth's Attorney, I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with hundreds of jurors, during various trials and weekly with the Grand Jury. I cannot begin to express my thanks to each and every person who has honored their duty to serve as jurors in Christian County, knowing that it would be easier to just ignore that summons when it arrives in the mail.

Thomas Jefferson said, "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees anyone accused of a crime the right to a trial by a jury. However, unless you have been a criminal defendant or a juror, you may not understand some of the differences between a trial jury and a Grand Jury, or other details that go along with jury service.

In Kentucky, we have petit juries and grand juries, which each serve an equally important but very different role in our judicial system. Jurors are randomly selected from computer rolls of adult Kentuckians who are registered voters, who pay taxes and who are licensed drivers. A jury summons is sent to each person selected for a particular month, jurors are required by law to return the summons form, and the jury pool for each division is made up of those people. It is from that pool that a Grand Jury is selected - every other month in Christian County - and from which trial [civil and criminal] jurors are seated.  

As the Commonwealth's Attorney, I prosecute felony criminal cases that are punished by at least a one year sentence.  The County Attorney prosecutes misdemeanor cases, which are punished by twelve months or less, among his other duties. A felony case may begin with an arrest and proceedings in District Court before ultimately making its way before the Grand Jury. Or, it may be presented to the Grand Jury as a direct submission by the appropriate investigator.

The Grand Jury's job is to determine if there is adequate probable cause for a felony case to go forward in Circuit Court. The Grand Jury is an independent investigative body that votes whether to return a 'True Bill of Indictment' in a case or a 'No True Bill' - which means that they did not have nine votes that felt there was probable cause in any given case. They hear evidence from some civilian witnesses, but primarily from law enforcement officers. They have the ability to subpoena additional witnesses or evidence, if they feel it is necessary in making the right decision.

You may have heard people say, "a prosecutor could get a Grand Jury to indict a ham sandwich." I want to clear up that misconception. First, all prosecutors are held to ethical standards and laws that prevent them from presenting a 'ham sandwich' to a Grand Jury. We all have plenty of work to do without presenting baseless cases, seeking indictment on charges that we will ultimately not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Next, the Grand Jury is made up of twelve people who make their own independent decision whether to indict someone (not something) after hearing the evidence presented to them. They vote in private, and nine of them must agree that probable cause exists before an indictment is returned. For those reasons, it is demeaning to those who have served on a Grand Jury to make comments alleging that they would simply 'rubber stamp' an unjustified charge that may be presented by any prosecutor. 

A trial jury, on the other hand, is selected by allowing both prosecution and defense to exercise a certain number of strikes from a larger jury pool. Once selected, those jurors hear a much more detailed presentation of the facts, testimony and evidence in a case. However, there are certain things, such as a defendant's criminal history or hearsay statements, that they are not allowed to hear about in the guilt phase of a trial. It is only after they unanimously decide that someone is guilty before they are allowed to learn of a defendant's prior convictions, about the penalty range and parole eligibility for the crime currently charged with, and from the victims of the crime about the impact of the criminal activity on them. This 'Truth In Sentencing' phase of the trial is where the jury selects the punishment that they feel is appropriate for the criminal acts of which they found the defendant guilty.

Please take an opportunity to read the Grand Jury reports and Newsletters that are posted on our website to get some insight into the experiences and results of our jurors in Christian County. And, if you ever receive a jury summons, please take that opportunity to serve and gain some first-hand knowledge of our criminal justice system. But also, please understand that your role is very serious as it comes to seeking justice for crime victims, to ensuring the rights of those accused, and to protecting our community.

For those of you that have served as a juror in the past, please accept my sincerest thanks and appreciation for honoring your civic duty. Our criminal justice system could not operate effectively without the citizens of Christian County serving as both trial and grand jurors. Your pay was certainly not sufficient for the vital job you performed.

Thanks again!

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My Dream

It was ten years ago that my children and I began participating in the local services honoring the late Martin Luther King Jr. Every year since then, I walk away with something new ~ a deeper appreciation for the beautiful voices in the choir, a brighter hope for our city and county, a renewed faith that God will help us overcome our challenges, a better sense of community, and an improved understanding of how far our country has come since Dr. King fought for freedom and unity.

However, I don't believe we have yet accomplished what he envisioned when delivering his memorable 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. He dreamed that "in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty." 

Unfortunately, prosecutors and law enforcement officers are exposed to many people who focus more on their personal instant gratification or revenge than those shining examples of love and brotherhood. Especially today, people who are sworn to protect and serve are all too often the ones who meet with the most hatred.  In 1967, Dr. King stated, "The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve."  I am often discouraged by the inability of many to handle situations as mature adults.

But, today ... I heard a sermon worthy of Dr. King himself! And, it wasn't by a seasoned minister or doctor of theology. This sermon was delivered by a young man, a classmate of my daughter, a junior in high school ... and he had everyone on their feet believing in the dream that with faith (and action) we can achieve ANYTHING! 

My take-away today was that Donavan Pinner, along with the many other energized and good kids who participated, set the perfect example of why we should have faith in our young people and in our community. We cannot let hate and other evils destroy our children, our faith or the dream that we can be a city, a county, a state or a country of brothers and sisters that take care of each other, instead of bringing others down. 

I have a dream ... that our children will be encouraged to DO better and BE better than we have been in the past. I dream that parents will teach their children not to be afraid of the police, but to trust them, and to do right so they don't ever have to be caught in a bad situation. We must teach them right from wrong and watch them blossom.

 

"To Protect & Serve"

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After spending half of the day with some of Hopkinsville and Christian County's finest law enforcement officers presenting cases to the Grand Jury, I just realized today's significance. The National Fraternal Order of Police has partnered with C.O.P.S. and law enforcement associations across America to establish today as National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

In light of recent negativity directed toward law enforcement nationally, there is a need to show law enforcement officers that our citizens recognize the difficult and sometimes impossible career they have chosen, in public service to us all. 

Can you imagine going to work each day and wondering if you’ll survive your shift and see your family that night? Most people can’t. But in law enforcement, this is a fact of life. Each day 780,000 police officers across our country put a badge on and go to work knowing they may face extremely dangerous situations. Yet, they go to work anyway. Being a law enforcement officer is not just a job, it is a calling. The pay is low, the hours can be terrible, and there is sometimes little appreciation for what you do. Yet, they do it anyway.

What the public doesn’t see is the lengths law enforcement takes to keep our communities safe. On average, between 105 and 203 officers die in the line of duty each year, 50,000 officers are assaulted in the line of duty each year, 14,000 officers are injured in the line of duty each year, and over 300 officers commit suicide each year. There is no other profession in the world, except possibly the military, where you will find these kinds of statistics.

Being a law enforcement officer truly is an impossible job. You must be professional, courteous, caring and yet be ready to protect the public at all times. You must be prepared to make life and death decisions at a moment’s notice. You take an amazing amount of abuse at times, but have to view this abuse as just “part of the job.” You do not have the liberty to express your emotions during many situations.

Law enforcement officers play such an integral part in our society; without them, chaos would reign. Have you ever thought about what you would do if you were in trouble – a car accident, a home invasion, an assault – and you did not have someone to call for help? No matter how much abuse law enforcement takes, they continue to do their job, and do it well. They are the guardians of our way of life and they deserve our support. 

I am personally and professionally very thankful to the many men and women in our cities, counties, states and nation who proudly take that oath "To Protect and Serve." It is because of them that we can all sleep a little easier tonight. So, please find a moment, today or any day, to let an officer know that you appreciate them and the sacrifices they make each day. 

Out With the Old ~ In With the New

On this New Year's Day, many of us have made resolutions for positive change in 2015 and reflected on the events of 2014. I have been doing the same and am excited to reveal the new website and Twitter page for the Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney. 

After years of encouragement from my former Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney and current Senator Whitney Westerfield, I finally gave in to making these changes. Whitney has been instrumental in his assistance with the technical aspects of website design, social media and even most of the photography you see here. I want to personally thank him for persistently urging me to provide you with a more modern image of our office. 

I also want to thank each and every one of you for your support throughout my first eight years as Commonwealth's Attorney ~ the time has really flown by! While the office makeup has changed some from the beginning, we still operate as a team that fights for justice on behalf of all the citizens of Christian County. I am blessed to work with some of the most wonderful people every day ~ in my office and throughout the entire justice system ~ in Christian County and across our beautiful Commonwealth. 

My resolution is to keep you all updated with the most recent cases in Christian Circuit Court, to handle each case seeking justice for all those involved, and to uphold my duties to you as your chief prosecutor.  Please take the opportunity to check out our new website and our social media sites (Twitter & Facebook) in order to stay current with issues that face your community. 

Thank you and Happy New Year!  

~ Lynn

 

 

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