Portsmouth, Ohio Public Defender Shawn Stratton spent some time answering questions about his job and the balance of work and personal life. Some of his answers may surprise you.
Many people believe that a court-appointed attorney works for the prosecutor’s office. Tell us how that works.
Court-appointed attorneys do not work for the prosecutor at all. If you were to see all our interactions with the prosecutors you would think we were sworn enemies. Civility is necessary in our job, however, and we try to work with the prosecution.
Many people believe that the court-appointed attorney is there to cut a deal, get some kind of conviction, and move on to the next. What is the average acquittal rate in Scioto County?
Take for example the trial of Jade Moore (two counts of aggravated burglary F1 and one count of burglary F2). This is a case where my client wanted a trial and we won. I don’t cut deals merely to move on to the next case or to resolve a case to prevent a trial (I have won 2 out of the last 3 jury trials). Sometimes it is necessary and my recommendation is to plea and take the time that is offered or probation.
That is completely up to my client. However, evidence in a case determines whether a case is strong or weak. As for the acquittal rate here in Scioto County, of course it is low because the prosecution determines what they bring forward and what they take to trial. How it compares to other counties I’m not sure.
You have (and continue to get) some very high profile cases. Tell us how you separate some of the terrible things people do to each other and maintain a healthy balance in life.
I work a lot of hours and a lot of weekends. Someone asked my wife what my hobbies were and she said “work”. These days I work, try to exercise a little, go to soccer, and play with my kids. People do terrible things in this world but I believe no one is beyond redemption and forgiveness. The person that is accused or guilty of these crimes is still a part of God’s plan and has a purpose. In each case, I remember my uncle who was convicted of murder in Georgia (State of Georgia vs. John Stratton). Even though he was found guilty and sentenced to 20 to Life, I still love him.
I have a duty to uphold, to defend the downtrodden and the people society hates. I believe in law and order and my job is a part of that system.
How do you feel inmates are treated at the Scioto County Jail?
I believe for the most part people are treated okay in jail. The staff does a good job of keeping people separated from others. Of course, you have people who say mean and nasty things but I tell my clients let that roll off your shoulders. After a little time that fades away. Most people end up back in the general population and rarely are there any major incidents.
What would you like the public to know should they encounter the legal system?
Speaking of no case in particular, the number one thing people can do to make my job easier and the prosecutor’s job harder is to shut up. You don’t need to talk to the detective or the police. You have the right to remain silent. There will be plenty of time later to tell the detective all you want.
Shawn Stratton can be reached at:
Stratton Law Firm LLC
602 Chillicothe Street