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Deputy Hennepin County Attorney Mark Osler recently wrote an Opinion Exchange printed in the Star Tribune, entitled, “Moriarty’s vision, not critics’ fears, has been fulfilled.”
The piece requires a response.
Osler’s position is that Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty’s critics, of which there are many, have been wrong all along about her “vision” for public safety. To support this claim, Osler cited a few crime metrics from Minneapolis that have fallen in 2023. A more thorough and thoughtful use of crime data refutes Osler’s argument.
Osler noted, “I don’t claim our office lowered crime rates.” He is right.
If Moriarty’s “vision” had led to an improvement in public safety in Hennepin County, it would stand to reason that Hennepin County’s crime trend would be in line with or exceed improvements experienced by the rest of the state. It isn’t, it doesn’t, and it’s not close.
Bureau of Criminal Apprehension data reveals a stark reality when determining how Hennepin County is faring compared to the rest of Minnesota. Comparing the first three (3) quarters of crime data from 2021 against the first three (3) quarters of crime data from 2023 (Moriarty’s time in office) shows the following:
Person Crimes. Hennepin County “Person Crimes” have increased by 7.3% while they decreased by 11.6% in the rest of the state. This represents an underperformance by Hennepin County of 19% compared to the rest of the state.
Property Crimes. Hennepin County “Property Crimes” have increased by 1.7%, while they decreased by 29.8% in the rest of the state. This represents an underperformance by Hennepin County of 31.5% compared to the rest of the state.
Crimes Against Society (Narcotics, Weapons, Prostitution, etc.). Hennepin County “Crimes Against Society” have decreased by 26.3% while they decreased by 34.6% in the rest of the state. This represents an underperformance by Hennepin County of 8.2% compared to the rest of the state.
Data from Moriarty’s own office shows that these worsening crime rates as compared to the rest of the state have occurred at the same time her office has reduced the rate of charges issued in juvenile cases by 10.5%, and adult cases by 7.1%.
Moriarty’s critics have consistently articulated the problems that would result from electing a progressive activist to serve as an elected prosecutor. Installing a progressive activist clearly upsets the balance required in a properly functioning criminal justice system — whereby defense attorneys represent the interests of the defendant, while prosecutors represent the interests of the public.
Furthermore, critics suggested that Hennepin County residents would be wise to learn from the mistakes of others who had elected progressive prosecutors. Manhattan, Chicago, Portland, and San Francisco all provided a glimpse of the dysfunction that would likely occur here if we followed suit.
During the endorsement process, the Star Tribune Editorial Board astutely remarked:
“…we’re concerned that her approach doesn’t adequately emphasize public safety. Moriarty also brings baggage after her stint as chief public defender ended in controversy related to social media posts, her managerial style, and tense relationship s with other leaders in the criminal justice system.”
“…the Editorial Board remains concerned about her ability to transition from defender to prosecutor and to provide effective leadership for the office.”
These observations and concerns were well-founded.
Since the election, Moriarty’s brief ten-month tenure has been riddled with controversy, as predicted.
It is rumored that dozens of senior attorneys have resigned, and many others have formally resigned from cases they were prosecuting in protest over mandates to alter or drop charges, offer lower bail or conditions for release, or offer inappropriately low plea bargains.
Nearly a dozen families of violent crime victims have spoken out to criticize Moriarty for favoring the welfare of offenders over the welfare of their loved ones. Several of these examples involved plea bargain offers of 1-2 years of incarceration for intentional murders.
At least two judges in recent weeks have taken the extraordinary action of rejecting Moriarty’s plea agreements, and in another extraordinary move, the state’s Attorney General stepped in and took a murder case from Moriarty after stating her plea offer to the offender was “outrageous.”
As noted, a balance between defense attorney and prosecutor is required for a properly functioning justice system. Moriarty’s advocacy for offenders has upset that balance, and public safety has suffered as a result.
If Moriarty’s “vision” has been fulfilled, as Osler asserts, one wonders why he would choose to highlight it.
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