Kyle Troutman: Amy Boxx and Don Trotter: A tale of 2 prosecutors
Public officials are required to serve the residents who pay their salaries. One of the things taxpayers expect is to be informed on important issues.
In this regard, there are stark differences between the prosecuting attorneys in Barry and Lawrence counties -- Amy Boxx and Don Trotter, respectively.
Trotter recently met this call to the best of his ability and with outstanding candor.
Faced with protestors at the Barry and Lawrence county judicial centers -- picketing against a possible plea deal for Jade Murray, who is accused of killing her 4-year-old son -- Trotter was open and frank in his assessment of the situation.
Through an article in Cassville Democrat, Trotter responded directly to the protestors, who asked what is justice if a person can abuse a child, eventually to death, and only get five years in prison, as the now-on-hold plea deal would sentence?
Trotter said he understood the protestors' frustrations, and agreed five years is not enough for the death of a child. He contended the evidence in the case was not enough to ensure a conviction, and five years is still better than no years.
Under Stone County Circuit Judge Alan Blankenship, the fifth judge to be on the case since it started in 2014, the evidence is being re-examined and the plea deal is on hold.
Trotter's candidness is refreshing, especially compared to his counterpart to the south.
"I want to get to work and get it done. I will try to wrap up as quickly as I can with my private practice and move on to the next job."
The above quote is from Boxx on Aug. 5, 2014 -- the night she was elected Barry County prosecuting attorney.
I'm sure you're wondering what's notable about this quote. On the surface, nothing. But it is notable for what it represents.
This is the last time Amy Boxx has been quoted in this publication since her election.
That's 436 days and counting.
During her campaign, Boxx responded to interview requests like all other local candidates. She was eager to get her message out in hopes of getting her foot in the door of the prosecutor's office. Now that she's on the other side, she has slammed it shut on any information, including our attempts to write an introductory article when she took office in January.
This is the first time since the early 1950s, at least, that this newspaper has dealt with a prosecutor who refused to answer any questions about anything. It's likely been longer than that, if ever, but our institutional memory only goes back so far. Her lack of transparency is truly historic.
Boxx's predecessor, now-Barry County Judge Johnnie Cox, was faced with a tough case near the end of his tenure. An 18-year-old autistic man was being held in the Barry County Jail on charges of attempted statutory sodomy and attempted statutory rape, stemming from an incident near Monett Elementary School.
Even after the case was removed from public view on CaseNet, Cox was open to discussing the case without overstepping his bounds or putting the case in jeopardy.
After Cox became judge and Boxx became prosecutor, Boxx dropped charges against the 18-year-old.
We placed multiple calls to Boxx's office when this occurred to find out why, as it was no longer an open case.
The man's mother believes the reason charges were dropped was because her son was not on school property when the incident occurred. But, like the rest of us, she doesn't know for sure.
This question, like the numerous others we have tried to ask over the past year-plus, is one to which the public deserves an answer.
But Boxx doesn't seem to understand that the prosecutor's office belongs to the taxpayers, not her.
Trotter's willingness to answer to the people he serves shows his commitment to the voters of Lawrence County who put him in office.
I wish we could say the same about the Barry County voters' choice.
Kyle Troutman is the editor of the Cassville Democrat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 417-847-2610.