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Local Editorials

The prostitution cases reveal bungling by the prosecution

Prostitution is a form of human trafficking and law enforcement has a moral obligation to stamp it out. The springtime decision to target alleged “johns” in a sting operation sent a clear and welcome message that supporting the trade of human flesh is itself a crime.

Two recent cases, however, call into question the way it was executed.

A hearing in the case against one of the defendants revealed that someone in the La Salle County State’s Attorney’s Office cited the wrong portion of the statute governing overhears. The judge in this case wouldn’t throw out the case as defense lawyers suggested, but the judge did put strict limits on giving jurors access to the recordings.

In an era when jurors demand fingerprints, DNA and live footage as proof of wrongdoing, the ruling undercut the state’s position.

Whichever prosecutor cited the wrong paragraph from the text is of no consequence. Voters elect human beings to try cases and the human factor means mistakes will get made.

What is concerning is the apparent lack of oversight by the state’s attorney’s office. When the proverbial Is are not dotted and the Ts not crossed, it begs the question of whether an individual or group has been tasked with crosschecking details that may seem small but are in fact crucial in the pursuit of justice.

It is true that office management was turned over and a transition was to be expected, but that was three years ago. Now, little more than a year away from a new election, we still see a troubling pattern of miscues resulting in acquittals and dismissals.

Brian Towne’s charges were dismissed over a speedy-trial violation. The auditor’s acquittal spotlighted an elementary misstep: Nobody asked of a witness, “Do you see Jody Wilkinson in court?” Two drug cases were derailed because the indictments were not amended after surprise results from the crime lab.

It is unreasonable for voters to expect a 100% conviction rate; but recent events speak to administrative lapses that must not go unchecked.

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