Nola Tedesco Foulston: My years as district attorney

12/21/2012 8:25 AM

12/21/2012 8:26 AM

In January 1989, when I took office, I was determined that I would not disappoint the community that believed in me enough to elect the first woman as district attorney. As I surveyed the office at that time, it was pretty dismal. There was no technology, an outdated filing system, and no policies or procedures to guide in managing the overwhelming responsibilities and other critical issues presented. On the bright side, there was great potential with a staff of brilliant and talented individuals who were eager to lend a hand in making the necessary changes and improvements. These were the requirements of a “first-class prosecution office” complemented by the work of professional law enforcement agencies.

Then and now, my goal has been to do my part to make our community safer and more dynamic. Over the years, this office has accomplished daunting tasks that restructured and revived our office into a savvy model of efficiency, technical expertise, forensic and investigative procedures, innovative programming, increased communications, excellent training, and effective and winning solutions for the operation of this agency. We built solid relationships with law enforcement, the courts and community agencies that serve the public interest.

Throughout the years, our office has not only followed the law, we made the law . We were the voice of Kansas in two national landmark cases before the U.S. Supreme Court: State v. Hendricks (upholding the Kansas sexual predator law) and State v. Marsh (upholding the constitutionality of the Kansas death penalty).

Our office has handled some of the most tragic cases that brought sorrow and dismay to our community. We were there to assure that justice was done in each case and that our community could trust and believe in the criminal justice system and our law enforcement community. Through the years, we have worked tirelessly to assist victims of crime and their families with the tragedies that have befallen them. We have grieved with them, supported them and worked diligently to do justice for them.

We have fought those battles and have used our strong voices in support of all of our community: women, men, children and, yes, even our beloved animals.

As I close this chapter in my life, I would be remiss not to thank all of the agencies and community organizations that have worked in partnership with the Office of the District Attorney. My sincere appreciation recognizes all of our colleagues in the criminal justice system, including local, state and federal law enforcement and prosecution agencies; our partners in forensic sciences and crime scene analysis; and the courts of the 18th Judicial District as well as the appellate courts of Kansas. My respect for Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams and his staff of professionals and Sedgwick County Sheriff Robert Hinshaw and his successor, Jeff Easter, and their staff is steadfast.

The addition of the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center , administered by director Tim Rohrig and deputy director Jaime Oeberst, has provided our community with a first-class center for the highest-quality forensic services and scientific technical support. Their work within the criminal justice community to rule out or to link a suspect to a victim or scene of violent criminal action and to aid in the discovery of relevant evidence to solve crimes has been invaluable. My thanks to the Wichita and Sedgwick County fire departments for their work with our office on arson crimes and to director Randy Bargdill and his colleagues at Sedgwick County Emergency Communications (911) in providing the people of Sedgwick County the vital communications link to emergency service personnel and equipment that betters the quality of life and preservation of property for every person within Sedgwick County.

Law enforcement authorities have the most complex responsibilities to protect and serve this community, and they have been professional and serve with integrity in their work to keep our community free from harm. There have been collaborative teams encompassing public agencies and the private sector, including the Financial Abuse Specialist Team assembled to combat financial abuse of vulnerable adults. And in our community, dedicated volunteers in elder abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault agencies were our stalwart partners in supporting victims of crime and assisting the Office of the District Attorney in fulfilling its mission.

It has been a true pleasure serving as district attorney. I will always be grateful for the support and encouragement from our community, without which my job would have been immensely more difficult. I have always believed and endeavored each day to promote the principle that the duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict.

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