An interview with Josh Edwards

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An interview with Josh Edwards

District Attorney hopeful Josh Edwards, Democrat, will face off against Paul Smith, Republican, in the November election.

District Attorney hopeful Josh Edwards, Democrat, will face off against Paul Smith, Republican, in the November election.

District Attorney hopeful Josh Edwards, Democrat, will face off against Paul Smith, Republican, in the November election.

District Attorney hopeful Josh Edwards, Democrat, will face off against Paul Smith, Republican, in the November election.

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Josh Edwards, Democratic candidate for District Attorney, recently sat down with The Cougar Call for an interview.

Q: How long have you been an attorney?

A: I have been practicing since 2010 so about 8 years now.

Q: What made you choose to run for District Attorney (DA)?

A: When I saw that the state of affairs, especially concerning our district attorney offices, weren’t apt to change anytime soon particularly the amount of waste that was occurring both in the charging decisions that the prosecutors were making, coupled with the performance of prosecutors at trial, I knew that if I didn’t act, that if I didn’t try to write the course, that justice in my community would be at this stale, outdated model. And I think the given the change in laws that occurred in the last three years with most felony drug offences being reclassified as misdemeanors presents a new challenge to prosecutors, and I think that it’s going to take a new approach to deal with, especially one rooted in treating the underlying issues, whether it be substance abuse or mental health treatment services.

As an attorney in private practice, I have a different perspective on that than prosecutors do. I have a one-on-one relationship with my clients and I see these programs and how they work and how they affect a client. And the mantra of prosecutors for the last three decades in this state has been incarcerate, incarcerate, incarcerate. Oklahoma is the global leader, not just in the country, but the world, in per ca-pita of incarceration. I don’t think Oklahomans deserve to be locked up more than any other citizen of any other state, certainly not more than anyone in the country, but we are. And that’s something that we’ve done to ourselves through our prosecutors. More than 95%  of criminal cases are not resolved by a trial, but by plea negotiation with prosecutors. The high incarceration rate falls on the back of the prosecutors, they’re the ones who really caused us to be where we’re at. And it’s time for a different perspective, its time for the community to have a say in who serves as their DA, and our community hasn’t had that in 28 years. I felt that our DA wasn’t represented of our community values and I couldn’t live with my conscience if I didn’t try to fix the problems in my community, so that’s why I filed to run.

Q: What new perspectives do you want to bring into the community?

A: I want a model of justice that puts more emphasis on rehabilitation. When you look at people who are incarcerated, most of the people who are incarcerated, who go to prison, end up back in their communities, and the studies have shown that incarceration doesn’t do anything to reduce recidivism, to reduce the chances of them committing more crimes when they get out. And some studies have shown that for lower level drug offences, incarceration actually increases the likelihood of that person committing another crime when compared to other alternatives.

Some of the other alternatives that we have that we should be using are drug courts, mental health courts, treatment services. Anytime that we can address a person’s underlying issue for why they are committing the crimes, it benefits our community. It gives the person who is breaking the law the tools to address their own demons so that they’re not breaking our laws. And I think we need to have that intervention happen much earlier in a person’s contact with the justice system. We shouldn’t wait until it’s a person’s third or fourth offence and say, ‘Okay, now lets put you in an intensive drug program.’ If you have someone who has a methamphetamine addiction, we ought to be dealing with that upon their first contact with the justice system.

The other one is having a better grasp on addiction. I think everyone knows now someone in their family or a friend, someone close to them who suffers from addiction. In order to address that underlying problem that’s causing the person to or a result of the addiction to break the law. We have to look at new methods that will address that root cause. In addition to treatment programs, to having an earlier intervention for drug or mental health services when a person enters the justice system, I think we should be mindful, careful that every decision a prosecutor makes is made in the interest of the community as a whole. Our community is safer when we lower the number of people addicted to substances. Our community is safer when people who suffer from mental health issues are getting the right treatment and medications they need, and I think that our justice system as a whole needs to look at each individual case as, how is the recommendation that the prosecutor makes- how does this serve the community on a big scale. And I think prosecutors need to take that approach instead of, how can I get the most money out of this person for court costs or fees. And I think whenever we put the community’s safety first, our citizen’s are ready to engage in smarter prosecution decisions, and I think it’s time we have a DA who shares that same sentiment. That’s what I hope to bring to the office.

Q: Who are you running against?

A: My opponent is Paul Smith. He’s an attorney from Seminole County. He was appointed by Governor Fallin last year to fill an unexpired term of Chris Ross who retired early.

Q: Is this a political partisan race?

A: Yes, this is a partisan race. I’m not so certain that it should be, but it is. I am the Democratic candidate and Mr. Smith is the Republican.

Q: Are there any remarks made by your opponent that you’d like to clear up?

A: I think anytime you’re running a race, especially one that’s rooted in the law, you need to have a dialogue where you agree or where people understand the facts. My opponent has published in the newspaper that I have not conducted any jury trials, which is patently false. He stated that he had his office look into whether I had conducted any jury trials with their office, and they said they didn’t find any, which is false. I have conducted seven jury trials total and won six of them. Three of the jury trials that I tried were with the Pontotoc County DA’s office, and whenever you have an elected official, especially one that’s in charge with enforcing the laws, making statements that are untruthful, it causes a lot of distrust within our community of the office. And there has been a tremendous amount of criticism towards the DA’s office. The Pontotoc County DA’s office has had books written about it, and I think our community is better served when we can correct that perception, when we can ensure that whenever a person enters a court room and announces that they are the District Attorney or Assistant District Attorney, that people respect and trust that person, and I think that’s missing as a result of these false statements being made.