Ray Tonkin’s conviction rate is meaningless

| 15 May 2015 | 02:41

    To the Editor:
    I was a former civil prosecutor for the federal government in Washington, D.C., for many years; my wife was a federal criminal prosecutor in Washington for many more years. We quickly learned that a lawyer’s conviction record was a meaningless number. A prosecutor could easily build a high conviction rate by plea bargaining all the hard cases and taking to trial only the slam dunks. For example, Mr. Tonkin may have plea bargained ten difficult cases involving sexual predators (releasing them back into the community) and taken to trial only the one sexual predator case where the defendant was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Mr. Tonkin may or may not be a great prosecutor, but one cannot possibly determine that by looking at his prosecution success rate.

    Here is the minimum information that Mr. Tonkin should promptly make public: (1) how many trials has he personally had in the last five years?; (2) for each trial in the last five years, what counts were alleged, and what was the jury’s verdict on each count?; (3) if Mr. Tonkin alleged five serious counts and one minor count and got a conviction only the minor count, does he consider that a victory when calculating his record of convictions?; (4) during the last five years how many cases did he plea bargain without going to trial, what counts were alleged against each defendant, which of those counts were dismissed in the plea bargain, and what was the agreed upon punishment for each count not dismissed?

    Armed with the answers to those questions, the public can make an informed choice between the candidates. Without that information, I can only conclude that full disclosure would seriously damage Mr. Tonkin’s candidacy.

    David Copus