Keeping victims up to date and informed about criminal cases that have brought their families worry and grief is a crucial role the prosecutor’s office holds.
Twentieth Judicial District Prosecutor Carol Crews spoke Wednesday to Conway Kiwanis Club members regarding the role her office holds, the “unique” role prosecutors have and the importance of keeping victims involved and informed through criminal proceedings.
The overall role of the prosecutor’s office is unique in that it serves the community and does not work off the role an individual hired it to as a defense attorney or private practice attorney would.
“When a case comes to the prosecuting attorney’s office, it’s our job to decide what’s the right thing to do,” Crews said shortly after noon Wednesday. “We have a very unique position in that we don’t have a pre-set position on a case. We are tasked with making the right decision. Sometimes, that’s very obvious [and] it’s very clear. Other times, it’s not.”
When reviewing cases to determine whether criminal charges should be filed, Crews said her office examines all the records and evidence associated with potential cases. From there, her office must determine:If a crime was actually committed.Can said crime be proven? If charges should be be filed. Victims and their families play a role in this decision as well.
Crews said in most cases, victims of cases know the defendant and are able to provide helpful background information and details important to the matter.
While including victims in the judicial process is important to Crews and the deputy prosecutors that help make up her office, it is also mandated by Arkansas law.
“I don’t have to do what the victim wants, although certainly I want to give a lot of difference to what he or she wants, but I statutorily have to include them,” Crews said.
This process also makes it easier for those involved to understand and take in how a case is going, Crews said.
“If your child is the victim of a case, a terrible crime, you’re not going to read about it in the paper what the outcome was. You are entitled a seat at the table at least from an informational perspective,” she said. “That’s something we take very seriously.”
No matter the severity of the case, Crews said she ensures victims and their families receive updates from either herself or another member of her office with each step of the way.
“Whether it’s a theft of property case or a capital murder, no matter what happens, you’re going to hear about it from me or my office before you hear about it [from social media or on the news],” she said. “You’ll hear about it from us and we will work as hard as we can.”
When reviewing cases, Crews said she will consider how a victim wants to see a case end.
This part of the process is important, because the victim is the one most heavily impacted by the defendant.
“We have to give and should give a lot of difference and consideration as to what the victim wants. The reason is simple: The victim’s the one who experienced whatever the crime was,” she said. “The victim was the one who was harmed in some way, whether it was a property crime, or certainly if it was a violent crime.”