Editor’s Note: Chairman of the DeWitt County Republican Party Dustin Peterson sent the following statement and candidate questionnaire response to local media this week. Following is his accompanying statement and one of the candidates’ responses.
The DeWitt County Republican Central Committee provided the following questions to both Republican candidates for states attorney as it is the only contested primary that covers the entire county. We as a party do NOT endorse in the primary, and this was an effort to provide some background on the candidates for states attorney. We will publish this on our Facebook page to share as well.
I’ve attached the response we received from current state’s attorney Dan Markwell. After a few follow ups due to no response, I was able to confirm with Stephanie Scoles that she was respectfully declining the invitation to complete the questions that were presented to both candidates.
DeWitt County Republican Central
Candidates for State's Attorney Questionnaire
Dan Markwell, current DeWitt County State’s Attorney and candidate for reelection.
1. How many years have you practiced law? I have practiced law for 20 years, 18 of which have been serving the public as either an Assistant State’s Attorney or State’s Attorney. I also spent two years practicing criminal law in private practice and as an assistant public defender.
2. Have you ever tried any serious felony cases? Yes.
If so, how many cases involving serious felonies have you tried and describe the results obtained?
I have prosecuted in excess of 1000 felony cases over my prosecutorial career including but not limited to murder, predatory criminal sexual assault, delivery of controlled substances, home invasion, aggravated battery, theft, burglary, and residential burglary to name just a few. I’ve tried several dozen felony jury trials as well as dozens of felony bench trials over the past 20 years. I’ve obtained sentences of 60 years in prison for the murder of a 3 year old child, 40 years in prison for the predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, and numerous other prison sentences for defendants who have committed violent crimes or who are repeat offenders.
3. Please describe how your prior work experience will help you serve DeWitt County as the State’s Attorney. My prior 18 years as a prosecutor provided me with the experience of trying numerous types of cases including traffic, misdemeanor, juvenile, felony, tax, ordinance and civil cases. I also gained experience representing county boards and elected officials to resolve civil issues. Since becoming DeWitt County State’s Attorney in 2014, I’ve resolved criminal and civil matters to the benefit of the public and the county.
4. Have you ever been charged with or convicted of a crime? No. A prosecutor should hold himself /herself to the highest of standards and the public should demand no less. As a prosecutor is responsible for enforcing the law, he/she should not place himself /herself in situations that would that would cause the public to question his/her integrity and erode public confidence in the office.
5. What do you believe to be your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses for serving DeWitt County as the State’s Attorney? I see my opponent’s lack of prosecutorial experience as her greatest weakness, specifically: a lack of felony trial experience; a lack of experience representing county boards, sheriffs, county clerks, circuit clerks, county treasurers, county coroners, and county tax assessors; a lack of experience in federal court resolving lawsuits against counties; as well as a lack of experience as a member of a drug court. My opponent’s strength would appear to be her concern for the welfare of children.
6. What kind of harm can result to our county from an inexperienced or under qualified State’s Attorney? There is no grace period once becoming State’s Attorney and no time for on the job training. A State’s Attorney is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and must be able to draw on his/her experience to provide an intelligent and sober response on a moment’s notice. The State’s Attorney must have a working knowledge of criminal law, juvenile law, tax law, election law, zoning, small claims, contract law and labor law, in performing his/her duties.
7. The State’s Attorney office has three attorneys and two support staff. What type of experience does each candidate have managing an office of that size? I have managed an office of that size for more than five years. As DeWitt County State’s Attorney, I have the responsibility to make sure my office is adequately staffed to serve the public while doing so in a fiscally responsible manner. On a yearly basis I prepare a budget for approval by the County Board. Funds become more and more limited each year. I have cut my budget when requested by the Board and have also done so voluntarily when I have seen the ability to cut costs. In 2017, I reduced the number of attorneys in the office from 3 (including myself) to 2 ½. The benefit to having a wealth of experience as a prosecutor is being able to cover a wide variety of job duties. By taking on additional responsibilities myself, I was able to reduce a full-time attorney position to part-time which saved the county money in the form of a reduced salary and in not having to pay for benefits for a full-time employee.
8. Please add any relevant information in regards to your specific qualifications for the job. Keep answers specific to the role of State’s Attorney. I hold a B.S. Degree in Administration of Justice, a M.A. Degree in Criminal Justice Management and Administration, as well as a Juris Doctorate. am licensed to practice law in Illinois State Courts as well as in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois. I am a member of the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Association. I settled civil litigation on behalf of DeWitt County with the Clinton Landfill and put together an agreement for future payments of host fees to the county which has resulted in payments to DeWitt County of $5,281,338.25 since I took office. I’ve prosecuted all types of cases on behalf of The People of the State of Illinois including the murder of Farmer City resident Blayne Benefield. I have the respect of Federal, State, County and Local law enforcement.