Turn Your Ballot Over and Vote "NO" on the Proposed New "Justice" Center

Maria Houser Conzemius, 13 October 2012  •  Comments

I'm planning to vote "NO" on the proposed new "Justice" Center Nov. 6th.

First, I can't afford a new "Justice" Center, especially an ugly monstrosity tacked onto a beautiful court house that's a "justice" center at present in name only. Our property taxes are high enough already. Our real income is declining, like that of most working and middle-class voters.

Second, after the cost overruns on the Joint Emergency Communications Center and the inefficiencies of communication following its establishment, I see no reason to reward the county's bad behavior.

Third, we have an incompetent Johnson County Attorney, Janet Lyness, with incompetent, sloppy assistant county attorneys. Several questionable judges and magistrates are too cozy with the county attorney's office and the Iowa Attorney General's office to merit respect.

Why should we pay for new digs for those prosecutors, judges, and magistrates? Again, that's simply rewarding bad behavior.

Unlike some of the others opposing the new "justice" center, I don't oppose it because too many people are going to jail. I oppose it because not enough people are going to jail.

For example, there's the botched first-degree murder trial. John Versypt, an Illinois man who owned property on Broadway Street, was murdered in broad daylight as he was tacking up a sign by one or more hoodlums who haven't been brought to justice because of the county attorney's incompetence.

The judge ordered a mistrial in the Versypt murder case because Janet Lyness and her staff played a piece of tape that was inadmissible as evidence and the jury heard it.

Then there's the plea deal for young Branden Lee Plummer, 20, who was initially charged with attempted murder for his violent assault on Sgt. Brian Krei with a choke hold that rendered the law officer unconscious, bleeding, and gasping for breath. Plummer slammed Krei's head into the ground and told a witness she'd better not call 911. Plummer received a two-month jail term with credit for time served and probation afterward.

A slap on the wrist for a violent offender who almost killed a cop?

And who could forget the infamous case of Kyle Marin, the young Johnson County man also initially charged with attempted murder for sitting on a man while holding a brick, telling the victim, "This is the last thing you will ever see," and striking him in the face and head. He wouldn't let his victim call 911 help.

Marin's attempted murder charge became a willful injury conviction.

Kyle Marin then violated the terms of his probation, but still wasn't incarcerated. He was allowed to go free.

In Cedar Rapids this violent young man, Kyle Marin, then 19, went on to murder two 18-year-old Kirkwood students who were cousins and roommates. At least one was supposedly a friend of his. The father of Katrina Hill found the two young women's bodies. Katrina failed to show for a family reunion.

Kyle Marin, fortunately prosecuted by competent Linn County prosecutors, is now in prison for life. The Iowa Supreme Court denied his appeal on his life sentence.

Without justice in Johnson County, there's no point in building a new "justice" center. Johnson County Democrats again need to clean house before justice could conceivably become their selling point.

In the absence of a Republican or independent challenger (Lyness ran unopposed and garnered 98% of the vote last time, a disgrace in an election in which most Johnson County Democratic elected officials garnered 99% of the vote), Democrats must primary and defeat Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness and get rid of her assistant county attorneys. At least two prominent elected or appointed officials have asked one potential candidate, an attorney, to primary her. The candidate refused. He's done with Johnson County.

There's no excuse for botching murder trials and offering plea deals that allow violent individuals to continue to prey on society. Janet Lyness is vulnerable, but will anyone run against her? I hope so. Chris Thompson's defense attorney, Tyler Johnston, did a good job of making a fool of Lyness and her staff in court. Maybe he would be interested in challenging her? I'd vote for him.

I won't vote for a new jail until Janet Lyness is out of office and her assistant county attorneys are fired. I also would like the county to learn how to build an efficient center of any kind without cost overruns. It hasn't happened so far.

Don't reward incompetence and bad behavior. Vote "NO!" on the new jail.