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MailTribune.com
  • Changing of the guard

    County's first-ever female DA makes changes in caseloads, plans training
  • Changes in caseloads, more in-house training for deputy district attorneys and long-awaited technology advances are the first orders of business for Beth Heckert, sworn in Monday as Jackson County's first female district attorney.
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  • Changes in caseloads, more in-house training for deputy district attorneys and long-awaited technology advances are the first orders of business for Beth Heckert, sworn in Monday as Jackson County's first female district attorney.
    Heckert, 50, replaces Mark Huddleston, who retired in December after 20 years at the helm.
    Heckert selected prosecutor Jeremy Markiewicz, 34, to serve as her second-in-command. Markiewicz's legal and people skills made him the best choice, she said.
    Markiewicz's financial crimes caseload will be divided up between several prosecutors, Heckert said.
    Stating she is a "big fan of the team approach," Heckert has paired up DAs who not only have the skills to handle tough cases, but who will work well together, she said.
    Child abuse cases will be covered by Terry Smith-Norton and Adam Peterson. And a female duo of prosecutors, Laura Cromwell and Ruby Herriott, will be handling the domestic violence caseload, Heckert said.
    "I think they'll make a really good team," Heckert said.
    The first of several in-house training days is slated for Jan. 18. Attorneys are required by law to have continuing education, she said, adding the sessions will be held on days the courts are closed.
    "We're going to have four trainings a year. Our first is going to be an ethics presentation on dealing with the press," Heckert said.
    Other training sessions will discuss search-and-seizure issues, critical injury protocol and other topics that impact the office, she said.
    "We are also going to have mandatory ride-alongs with the police," Heckert said. "It's a good way to get to know new officers, and for them to connect with us. It opens communication."
    Heckert said police and her office are anticipating the rollout of a new data management system that will allow reports to be received electronically. Currently, officers must deliver hard-copy police reports and other documents related to any given case to the DA's office.
    "We'll get (the reports) faster, and we can give them to the defense attorneys faster, too. There are a lot of good aspects to this," Heckert said, adding the new system is slated to go online in the spring.
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