Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

November 14, 2013

Taking the lead

Case involves effectiveness of law enforcement in the state

ASHLAND — For the first time since taking office in 2008, Attorney General Jack Conway will personally argue a case before the Kentucky Supreme. Here’s hoping he is effective enough to convince the justices on the state’s highest court of the rightness of his view. Not only is the outcome of this case important to Conway’s office, but it also is important to the successful prosecution of criminal cases throughout the state.

  At issue is just what the elected attorney general can and cannot do in the prosecution of criminal cases. Specifically, the justices will consider under what circumstances the state attorney general’s office can participate in criminal investigations across the state.

 Conway believes as the highest ranking elect law enforcement officer in Kentucky, the attorney general has broad powers to intervene in the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases throughout the commonwealth.

However, in two drug trafficking cases in eastern Kentucky, separate Court of Appeals panels have ruled the state attorney general has jurisdiction in local cases only when local officials or the governor request it.

 Conway argues in court filings his office could be stripped of its power to fight different crimes if the rulings stand, and we think he is right.

Attorney general spokeswoman Allison Martin said the office has 766 pending cases that involve drug offenses, computer crimes, Medicaid fraud and public integrity allegations.

Sixteen attorneys general from other states as well as Kentucky prosecutors and law enforcement officers have filed briefs to support Conway.

“Sadly, these limitations would disempower the attorney general’s office, to the detriment of the citizens,” said Chris Cohron, the Warren County commonwealth’s attorney and legislative director of the state commonwealth’s attorneys association.

Emily Holt Rhorer, however, argued on behalf of convicted drug trafficker Floyd Grover Johnson that “criminal investigations need to be conducted by those who know the county in which the crime has taken place.”

“It is not disputed that the attorney general can, and even should, take an active interest in drug offenses across the commonwealth” but not without an invitation, Rhorer said.

Conway’s office says, the “paramount duty of the attorney general is to protect the public interest,” and that can’t be taken away by the courts or the legislature.

But Rhorer says to best serve the public, there needs to be a “model in which there are a limited number of agencies investigating a crime — so the right hand knows what the left is doing.”

Drug traffickers pay little or no attention to county boundaries and city limits, and they often are operating in several different jurisdictions at the same time. That makes charging perpetrators with similar crimes in different jurisdictions one of the most successful ways of assuring they are convicted of multiple crimes in different counties and making long prison sentences more likely.

To successfully prosecute multiple crimes in different cities and counties requires a single entity organizing and coordinating the investigation. Conway thinks his office should be that coordinating agency, and we agree. While the Kentucky State Police have power to investigate crimes in multiple counties, Conway’s office is better equipped to coordinate  any investigations with the state police, local sheriff’s offices, local police and other agencies.

If Conway’s office is thwarted in its efforts to investigate criminal cases simply because no local officials asked for its help, it will  be a step backward for effective law enforcement in Kentucky.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Good opportunity

    Morehead State University is using a highly successful program for outstanding high school juniors and seniors at Western Kentucky University to launch a similar program beginning this fall on the MSU campus.

    April 20, 2014

  • What's next?

    While virtually all cities in northeastern Kentucky provide their residents with some utility services — water and sewer, mainly, and sometimes natural gas — to the best of our knowledge, Olive Hill is the only town in the FIVCO‚Äąregion with its own electrical company.
     

    April 13, 2014

  • 'Waited too long'

    Lt. Garlin Murl Conner left the U.S. Army as the second-most decorated soldier during World War II, earning four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during 28 straight months in combat.

    April 12, 2014

  • Enact HB 3

    The National Rx Drug Abuse Summit is under way hundreds of miles from eastern Kentucky in Orlando, Fla., but the three-day conference which runs through Thursday, was organized by Operation UNITE, the eastern Kentucky anti-drug group that knows all too well the devastating impact the prescription drug epidemic continues to have on this region.

    April 11, 2014

  • State officials cease efforts to stop advance of ash borer

    Kentucky’s war against the tiny emerald ash borer responsible for already killing more than 25 million ash trees in the eastern United States has ended in surrender — by state officials, not the tiny insect.

    April 8, 2014

  • Demise of apparel industry in Kentucky continues

    The steady demise of the once thriving clothing industry in small Kentucky towns continues with the latest factory to announce it is shutting down being one of the largest: Fruit of the Loom has announced it is closing its last remaining plant in Jamestown, a move that eventually will see the elimination of more than 600 jobs in the small town near Lake Cumberland.

    April 7, 2014

  • None on ballot

    The 2014 Kentucky General Assembly considered an unusually high number of proposed amendments to the Kentucky Constitution on such issues as casino gambling, the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons and the elimination of state and local elected offices.

    April 4, 2014

  • In Your View

    Letters to the editor

    April 3, 2014

  • Time runs out

    Two bills proposed by House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins and designed to boost the economy of this region have apparently died in the Kentucky Senate after being approved by the House of Representatives. Despite easily being approved by the Democratic-controlled House, neither bill was even brought up for a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate.

    April 2, 2014

  • Time runs out

    Two bills proposed by House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins and designed to boost the economy of this region have apparently died in the Kentucky Senate after being approved by the House of Representatives. Despite easily being approved by the Democratic-controlled House, neither bill was even brought up for a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate.

    April 2, 2014