Yesterday morning in broad daylight, Kaufman County (TX) Assistant County Prosecutor Mark Hasse was gunned down near his Courthouse office. The county’s chief felony prosecutor died shortly thereafter. By all reports, Hasse was a talented litigator who was committed to the rights of victims. ABC news reports (here) that colleagues said he “never shied from taking on cases involving dangerous people or organizations.”
Investigators are combing through his case files for leads to potential suspects in the crime.
In the Dallas News report (here) a former colleague praised Hasse with a compliment those on this blog and all Americans should appreciate. He said Hasse was a prosecutor who “knew when to try cases and when not to try cases.”
Hasse’s murder is a tragic reminder of the personal risk police and prosecutors take as they seek to identify, apprehend, and prosecute those who would commit heartless acts of violence such as that in Kaufman County yesterday.
Protecting society from violent individuals is dangerous work. It’s why we as a society have a deeply ingrained cultural appreciation for and respect for those who seek to protect us.
This explains why it is particularly disappointing and damaging when prosecutors lose their way. This blog focuses on the worst failure of criminal justice…cases in which an innocent person is convicted of a crime and a guilty person escapes justice to continue criminal acts.
Unfortunately, DNA-proven wrongful convictions have revealed that government misconduct by police and prosecutors is a recurring contributor to conviction error. That’s why this site doesn’t hesitate to expose prosecutors who put winning the contest over seeking the truth or who defend a mistaken verdict rather than cooperate with efforts to seek new truth, to restore justice in worthy cases of wrongful conviction.
It is important to the great majority of ethical prosecutors who are committed to seeking the truth and being our true ministers of justice that citizens laud prosecutors who are true public servants and boldly criticize those who have lost their way.
As my husband, Jim Petro—a former prosecutor and former Ohio Attorney General—and I advocate for criminal justice reforms that can reduce wrongful conviction, we by necessity talk about one of the hardest lessons Jim had to learn in researching wrongful conviction: Not all the good guys are.
That’s why we try to first remind our audience in every presentation that, while we may talk about prosecutorial abuses and overreach as revealed in wrongful convictions, we presume that no prosecutor sought the position to convict an innocent person, and that the great, great majority of prosecutors are public servants seeking true justice.
Frequent exposure to criminals and crime, the competitive nature of our adversarial system, public pressure to solve crimes quickly…and numerous other pressures present daily challenge to those who have the responsibility to seek the truth in criminal justice. They deserve our diligence in observing their work, in encouraging conscientious efforts to seek the truth, and in supporting them even when an investigation requires more time.
The highest tribute that can be paid to the memory of prosecutor Mark Hasse is that the investigation and prosecution that follow his tragic murder will identify the true perpetrator(s) of this horrendous crime.