OKLAHOMA CITY — Earlier this year in Cleveland County, a defendant pleaded into drug court on a charge of driving under the influence. A week later, she missed her first appointment with her drug court counselor due to a work conflict, and three days after that, she was charged with another count of driving under the influence. District Attorney Greg Mashburn moved to have her revoked from drug court and convicted before she received any treatment. But District Judge Jeff Virgin found that she should be allowed to stay and receive help for alcohol addiction. In response to the judge ruling the defendant could remain in drug court, Mashburn asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to rule that judges have no discretion to decide if someone stays in drug court – that the sole arbiter of who gets counseling and who gets prison should be left to prosecutors.
In response to the Court of Criminal Appeals recent order that reaffirms the decision of whether to terminate a participant from drug courts rests with drug court judges, the ACLU of Oklahoma released the following statements:
The following statement is attributable to Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director:
“We applaud the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals order that reaffirms the discretion of terminating participants from drug-court rests with drug-court judges, not district attorneys. This is not the first time DA Mashburn has wasted taxpayers’ time and money. Apparently, Greg Mashburn is not satisfied with the disproportionate amount of power district attorneys already have in the criminal justice system. Mashburn’s power grab was even too much for the conservative Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals, who dismissed Mashburn’s appeal in a two-page order.
For far too long DA’s have made it clear that they don’t trust judges or Oklahomans on juries with some of the most important decisions, including whether to punish a person with prison or use a much more effective alternative to incarceration. That is why, as important as this order is, it is not enough. The Oklahoma Legislature should act in the next legislative session to give judges and juries more power to administer drug courts and other alternatives to incarceration.”
The following statement is attributable to Jill Webb, Legal Director:
“The unforgiving nature of Oklahoma’s criminal system is due in large part to the outsized role played by district attorneys. Fortunately, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals found that judges do have the authority to allow people to stay in drug court and receive the help they need. This ruling is a victory for Oklahomans, especially when the judgment adds much needed mercy to a system that is too often terribly cruel.”