Commonwealth’s attorney explains local law, legal concerns

After announcing that she has requested for the Department of Justice to investigate Christian County’s judicial system, Christian Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Bolen specified what she believes to be unethical and unconstitutional practices that have occurred in the county.

Bolen spoke with WHOP news regarding what she wants the Department of Justice to investigate. While examining court case records, Bolen says she has seen records of attorneys prosecuting a suspect that they once represented as a defense attorney. 

While explaining this matter Bolen highlighted her own legal career in Christian County. Before Bolen took office as Commonwealth’s Attorney in March she worked in the county as a defense attorney.

Once she took office Bolen says she would avoid trying cases that she worked on as a defense attorney because that would create a conflict of interest.

Under these circumstances Bolen says she has relied on calling in special prosecutors to work on the case. However, Bolen says she has seen case records where someone has been prosecuted by someone who had once worked as their defense before her term.

Along with those concerns, Bolen says she has seen records where suspects have taken plea deals for charges that did not have supporting evidence. In instances where a case does not have supporting evidence, Bolen says it’s the prosecutor’s responsibility to dismiss the case.

Bolen cited the eighth amendment of the Constitution which prohibits the government from imposing overly harsh and unfair punishments on suspects and the fourteenth amendment which specifies that everyone should be protected under the law equally.

Craig Richardson, the President of the Christian County Bar Association says he is not able to comment on the possible Department of Justice investigation and he is not aware of any violations or complaints regarding local law and legal proceedings.

Bolen says she requested an investigation from the Department of Justice, because she wants to ensure that the local law and legal system is acting fair toward residents and wants people to be able to trust those meant to protect them.

In a news release from Bolen on Sunday, October 22 she shares specific cases that led to her to her concerns.

Bolen claims over 30 cases have been brought to her attention where the defense attorney and prosecuting attorney were the same person and shares multiple cases where cases were dismissed as a result of no evidence after multiple pretrial appearances.

Bolen also shares a 2016 theft and forgery case regarding Circuit Judge John Atkin’s son and claims the Atkins presided over the case.

According to the records, Atkins along with Circuit Judge Andrew Self signed off on an order for the need of a special appointed judge for the case in 2019 and Special Judge Timothy Stark signed off on a dismissal of the case in October 2019.