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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Meet and Greet

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

(Photo)
While people looked for seats, Clay County Council District 3 candidates Dolores Johnson (incumbent) and Toni Carter spoke before the political forum at the Clay County 4-H Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall Wednesday night. Approximately 100 people showed up for the event so-sponsored by the Clay County Chamber of Commerce and Clay County Farm Bureau. Ivy Jacobs Photo. [Order this photo]
* Forum attendees focused on Prosecutor's race

The community came out to meet all of the candidates Wednesday night, but the prosecutor's race took center stage.

Approximately 100 people showed up for the event so-sponsored by the Clay County Chamber of Commerce and Clay County Farm Bureau at the Clay County 4-H Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall Wednesday night.

The three Brazil Township Trustee candidates introduced themselves to the crowd, including T.J. Sneddon (Republican), Vickie Lawhorn (Democrat) and Linda Tozer-Smiley (Independent).

The trio explained to the crowd the importance of the office, which overseas public assistance, cemetery maintenance and fire protection for the township.

Lawhorn and Tozer-Smiley both talked about their prior experience in the office, while Sneddon cited his 30 years of experience at the local post office as be a benefit for the community.

Clay County Council District 3 candidates Dolores Johnson (D-incumbent) and Toni Carter (R) were introduced to the audience.

Five other candidates, who are running unopposed, introduced themselves and made a brief statement about their future expectations for their offices.

However, the only questions posed by the public involved the heated prosecutor's race between Lee Reberger (R-incumbent) and Charles Hear (D).

When asked about how many and the cost of an average jury trial, Hear admitted he had never been involved in the budgeting process for jury trials in the two individual courts in Clay County.

"I believe it can be done better," Hear said.

Reberger explained the Clay County Superior and the Clay County Circuit courts were allotted separate $10,000 budgets to cover the more than 2,000 civil and criminal court trial proceedings to come before the judges during the calendar year. He said approximately 800 cases were misdemeanors, 200 were felonies, 150 were probation violations and 1,750 involved child support issues.

According to Reberger, depending on the length of the proceedings, a civil trial costs approximately $1,500, while a criminal court trial can cost anywhere from $1,700-$2,000.

"This only allows five to six trials to be held for each court during the year," Reberger said. "The $10,000 has to cover all court proceedings and ultimately bring a resolution to those cases."

The candidates were also asked about why special prosecutors are being used for jury trials in Clay County.

Hear doubted there was a conflict of interest in each of the 17 jury trials he cited that have took place this year and questioned Reberger's use of funds for special prosecutors.

"I will try my own cases," he said.

Reberger explained when a conflict of interest occurs in a case ethic rules and the court requires special prosecutors.

"There are 68 pending criminal cases involving Mr. Hear at this time," Reberger said. "It would be an issue if he's elected too."

Hear said he had tried four jury trial proceedings in Clay County during the past six years.

"If I'm elected, there will be more jury trials, especially in the beginning, but it will be worth it," Hear, who believes convicted criminals should serve at least the state required advisory sentence, said. "I fight for my clients, I will fight for justice just as aggressively."

Reberger, who believes management skills are vital to the prosecutor's job, said he had supervised all of the cases to go through the prosecutor's office since 2005, but admitted to only actively participating in the Kevin Hampton jury trial in Vigo County in 2007.

The public also posed questions on ethical issues, which appeared to be mainly directed toward Hear.

Reberger touched on the fact that he had no prior or pending disciplinary actions or complaint since becoming an attorney.

Hear, who openly admitted to past and present complaints being filed against him, directed voters to the "skeleton section" his website (www.charleshear.com) for specific information about why his license to practice law was suspended for 100 days.

"My belief is, if you don't do anything, no one complaints. I'm not in the business to make friends. I'm here to win. I'm aggressive, which makes people mad sometimes," Hear said. "I am 100 percent certain I'll make a mistake in the future. I'm human. But I will work hard and seek justice."

Other topics Reberger and Hear were asked about included their ability to work with local law enforcement, sexual/domestic abuse cases and paperwork involving court cases.