Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Legal wrangle between judge, prosecutor's aide needs to end, get to work


Legal wrangle between judge, prosecutor's aide needs to end, get to work

As average citizens, we find ourselves annoyed by the legal wrangle between Judge James Burge and Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo.

Lorain County's justice system is bulging at the seams with more than enough cases to be handled. We would rather see these gentlemen taking care of business than wasting time and taxpayer money knocking heads.

The judge cited Cillo for contempt of court last week over wording that Burge felt was insulting to him, implying potential unethical behavior. That wording came in a motion that Cillo wrote objecting to a second murder defendant joining a legal challenge of Ohio's lethal injection method of capital punishment as being cruel and unusual.

Frankly, you'd have to be a lawyer to read the wording in Cillo's motion as any kind of insult, and even some lawyers, including County Prosecutor Dennis Will, don't see anything insulting in it. We agree with Will.

However, complicating things, Cillo's motion came after he had already criticized Burge in another case for sharply reducing a convicted man's prison sentence. According to Burge, Cillo called that decision ''nothing more than sheer lunacy'' and said that Burge ''exceeded his authority as a common pleas judge.'' Cillo also is alleged by others to have said, ''This is going to get ugly.'' And Cillo allegedly commented about a possible resentencing in an old criminal case involving Burge's bailiff, Dan Urbin. If these things are so, then Cillo is out of line and needs some work on his interpersonal skills.

Going back to the lethal injection challenge raised by defense lawyers, it is hard to understand why Burge has set a Nov. 5 hearing on this issue in a case in which the defendant, Ruben Rivera, has not even gone to trial yet, much less been convicted or recommended for the death penalty. As it is, the judge, a former criminal defense lawyer, is leaving room for the public to wonder if his personal reservations about the death penalty are not coloring his decision making. It would seem more appropriate to have Rivera's trial first, then, if required, deal with a challenge to the death penalty itself.

But first, the judge and the assistant prosecutor should both step back, take a breath, put their disagreements behind them and get back to work.

©The Morning Journal 2007

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