Public Defender Upset With Tulsa County DA Criticizing Judge’s Decision
TULSA COUNTY, Oklahoma - Tulsa County's chief public defender is not happy with the district attorney.
He said the DA was wrong to criticize a judge's decision to dismiss robbery charges against a suspect when the DA never objected at the time.
The man whose robbery charges were dismissed is now accused of murder in Dallas and more robberies in Tulsa.
The public defender said the judge made the best decision she could with the information she had at the time.
Police say Latwon Goff committed robberies in Tulsa in 2014, pleaded guilty and got 15 years; but a few months ago, the judge dismissed the cases and set Goff free.
Chief Public Defender Rob Nigh said Goff did everything the Department of Juvenile Affairs asked of him, completed his programs, enrolled in college and was getting good grades.
"The judge commented she wished her grades were as good as his were. At the time her decision was announced...the prosecution did not object and the gallery was full, and there was a round of applause," Nigh said.
Police said within two months of the cases being dropped, Goff is accused of murdering Jason Edwards during a home invasion in Dallas and shooting Edwards' fiancé, then coming back to Tulsa and doing more robberies.
Nigh said it's unfair to blame the judge for making the best decision she could at the time.
"The only way for the criminal justice system to work is for us to have independent, fearless judge," he said.
Nigh said this trend of prosecutors criticizing judges in the media puts pressure on judges to make different decisions and could affect their ability to be fair.
"Cases need to be decided on evidence in a courtroom, not public statements made to the media about what evidence might or might not be...otherwise it makes it impossible to get a fair trial," Nigh said.
He said it was improper for the DA and police to make statements about Goff that made him seem guilty of the new cases and to call the judge's decision wrong.
Night said, "We don't know she was wrong, he's presumed innocent. She may well have been exactly right."
Judge Sharon Holmes cannot talk about any of this because it would be improper for her to comment on an active case.