The position of County Attorney is a very demanding one, requiring an astute political sensibility. The County Attorney must meet the high standards of ethical behavior required of a prosecuting authority and negotiate a legal minefield where any slip could have grave consequences for both those of accused of crimes and the victims of crime, all while being essentially a political animal who is answerable to the local electorate. A good County Attorney requires the ability to see every issue from multiple perspectives and to be very prudent about one's political choices. The County Attorney must understand the legal and ethical ramifications of every political act he or she takes to effectively lead the office.
Barbara LaWall has been laudably and rightly pressing the state legislature to fund a new Department of Public Safety Southern Arizona Regional Crime Lab for some time now. The existing facility is an over-crowded, retrofitted stop-gap rather than a purpose-built facility, and presents several environmental, work-place safety, and, most importantly, evidence integrity issues that could impact the work of police forces and prosecutors throughout southern Arizona.
Lobbying of the state legislature by a County Attorney on behalf of the southern Arizona law-enforcement community and DPS is one of those inherently political acts that requires great foresight and sound judgment of the legal and ethical consequences. The political benefits of giving one's law-enforcement community constituents the tools they need is obvious. So is the publics' support for forensic evidence processing that reduces errors and promotes catching more criminals. What might not be obvious is the potential down-side of a County Attorney advocating for this needed improvement.
Well, when you are asking for millions for a new facility, you might want to show how many problems there are with the current facility. To do that you might want to give specific examples of how the existing facility undermines law-enforcement's mission. That's well and fine. But now imagine you want to get the most political mileage possible out of your advocacy - you want to be seen championing improving the quality of law-enforcement facilities in the community. You might want to make - I don't know - a video of yourself personally making an appeal for help and narrating personally the problems with the DPS regional lab. Sounds like a great idea, no?
Well, actually, no. You see, in personally denigrating the operations of an working facility that is processing forensic evidence for cases that your office is currently prosecuting, you have put yourself in the tricky legal position of publicly throwing doubt on the results of the lab your office uses to lock people up. Well, Barbara LaWall did opt to appear personally in an 11 minute DPS-sponsored video discussing all of the many problems with the existing facility that would warrant a multi-million dollar investment by the State.
She did opt to narrate the entire sequence. UPDATE: Amelia Cramer, LaWall's Chief Civil Deputy points out that it is not LaWall narrating. It is someone who sounds quite a bit like her. My mistake. She did let her political instincts carry her away without putting on her legal and ethical hat to check that what she was doing politically wouldn't harm her office's work.
The result is that the defense bar are using her own words as evidence to undermine the work of the DPS lab, and even petitioning to have LaWall appear as an expert in their cases on the problems at the lab. So far, two county judges have dismissed such efforts, saying that there are other witnesses without a conflict available to testify. Attorneys of the defense bar are unlikely to let this issue go, however. That's just not how my peeps roll...
For the first time, in its entirety, online, for everyone to view and judge for themselves, is Barbara LaWall's video lobbying for a new DPS lab that has lately been the subject of news reports: