Recently, I read in the Herald about the Ogden, Utah, man (Burns) who was recently arrested for the horrific murder of Sue Ellen Gunderson Higgins. Forensic evidence was used to tie Burns to this ghastly murder, as well as myriad other violent crimes throughout the mountain west. But the most endearing part of the story, was the role of our then-county attorney Mike Greer.
While the police wanted to charge Higgins’ husband with murder, Greer dismissed those charges because he found “irregularities in forensic evidence analysis.” In short, he was doing his job. Not satisfying the passion of the community that demands “quick justice,” where people have often made up their minds without knowing the actual evidence, is one of the hardest and most unpopular things a prosecutor can do. That is precisely what a good prosecutor must do.
Our county attorneys, in small towns and big cities, are the most important protection we citizens have against tyranny. They are often the ones that must stand up to shoddy police practices and flimsy evidence and stand on the rights embodied in our Constitution. They must tell the police to go back, gather more evidence — do better.
Having represented people for almost 28 years who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit, I know what happens to innocent people in prison — needless destruction of a life because passion overwhelmed the sober administration of justice. Mike Greer, you are a hero. Thank you for doing your job.