It is an honor for me to be invited by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and at times the Grandmothers Roundtable, to moderate candidate forums. I was pleased to see a healthy audience turnout at WWCC for Wednesday night's informative midsummer forum.
Candidates for Superior Court judge, Department , Richard Wernette and Scott Wolfram, made remarks and answered questions.
In addition, representatives on behalf of the city made a public presentation devoted to the aquatic center proposition followed by a thorough question and answer segment. Both of these important decisions will be determined in the primary elections on Aug. 7.
One benefit of moderating forums is that it provides me the opportunity to listen carefully and formulate my own decision as to how to vote. Prior to the forum I was ill informed and undecided.
I had read numerous letters to the editor in the U-B penned by individuals I have high regard for, some of whom support Wernette and others who support Wolfram.
Based on what the candidates conveyed in their statements and responses to questions, I determined that there are important distinctions between the candidates. The tipping point for me was when Wolfram indicated that criminal defense is not in his nature, that he isn't comfortable with that role.
Wernette, on the other hand, emphasized the duty of lawyers and the oath they take to defend even the most unpopular individuals, for the sake of upholding constitutional rights to due process.
I teach criminology at Walla Walla Community College and am acutely aware of the number of wrongful convictions that have come to light in our criminal justice system, particularly in cases in which the only evidence is eyewitness accounts as opposed to physical evidence.
Thankfully there are countless lawyers who are committed to fairness and justice more than to public pressure to simply be tough on crime. Should I, heaven forbid, ever be wrongfully accused of a criminal act, I am confident that I would prefer to stand before Richard Wernette as judge.
Based on what I heard at the forum, Wernette as judge would ensure that the scales of justice are balanced, and not presume guilt before all the evidence is presented.
At the risk of not being invited to moderate future forums for publicly declaring my viewpoint, I will be casting my ballot for Richard Wernette in this important primary election.