After 10 years as Boulder’s District Attorney, Stan Garnett shared his thoughts about the justice system in Colorado.
As Stan joins the private sector, he is optimistic and enthusiastic about the American justice system. He believes it works well, and in general accurately determines the guilt or innocence of defendants. In particular, Stan feels good about Colorado’s justice systems working well in this respect. It’s not perfect. For example, Stan is concerned about the funding of prosecutor’s offices throughout Colorado. When the legislature enacted funding for District Attorney’s Offices throughout Colorado, they used property taxes to fund the DA’s Offices. Many years later, we can see that DA Offices in poorer counties are significantly underfunded which can lead to inequity and disparities in the criminal justice systems in those counties.  

Stan said that in his opinion, juries in Boulder County return accurate verdicts; we have fair and temperate judges and extremely well educated, professional law enforcement.

Regarding law enforcement, the Boulder DA’s office prosecuted 27 officers in the last 10 years. That’s lower than many jurisdictions, but more importantly, law enforcement in Boulder County is vigilant about investigating and referring for prosecution officers who break the law.

Stan brought up the case of the assassination of the Boulder Elk on Mapleton Hill. The three officers involved in that incident planned the act, forged documents and lied about it. The Boulder Police Department responded by immediately investigating and making sure those officers were prosecuted.

The juvenile justice system was another of Stan’s areas of attention. The Boulder DA’s office uses programs like diversion (allowing juveniles to complete appropriate sentences and not have a criminal judgement appear on their record) and community restorative justice programs to help young offenders. Stan would like it if every young person who is charged with a crime has an opportunity to deal with the crime, be punished if appropriate and then, crucially, learn from the experience without it crippling that young person’s future prospects.  

Making his way down his list of ten, Stan explained that he’s in favor of decriminalizing more controlled substances if they can be as well regulated as the decriminalization of marijuana has been. And he’d like to free our judges from many mandatory sentencing restrictions.  

Stan left us with his optimism about the criminal justice system, stressing again that even with its drawbacks, our system works better than any other.