The County Line: Prosecutor says office gets support from local law enforcement

Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle works in his office Monday, Dec. 27, 2010 at the county courthouse in Jackson. (CARRIE BARTHOLOMEW)

Cape Girardeau Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said it is his office's job to enforce the criminal laws of Missouri, and that includes everything from traffic offenses to death penalty murder cases.

However, the most important task of his office, he said, is the prosecution of violent crime like murder, rape and robbery.

"Our job is to take these offenders off the streets to make Cape Girardeau County a safe place to live," he said.

Other particularly important prosecutions include property crimes, such as burglary and stealing, family crimes, such as domestic assault and child molestation, and drug and DWI offenses, he said.

Swingle took office in 1987, and like most other office holders in Cape Girardeau County, said technology has changed the way his office performs its job.

"When I started at the office, we still used Dictaphones, electric typewriters and carbon paper. Now, all charges are typed on computers," he said.

Also, like other officials, Swingle has seen an increase in workload as the county grows. He said the prosecuting attorney's office has seen its case load double in the last two decades.

The increased case load is the main challenge facing his office, Swingle said.

"We prosecute more than 2,500 cases per year, not counting traffic offenses, and have only six lawyers, so each prosecutor has a huge number of cases," he said. "We have developed procedures that allow us to be efficient with our time and resources. Otherwise, we'd get bogged down by the sheer mass of numbers."

Swingle said having a victim advocate to tend to the needs of victims and a "great" group of secretaries also helps keep the office working efficiently and effectively. Swingle said arresting agencies in the county also work closely with the office to help keep work streamlined.

"Our office is also blessed by the hard work done by local law enforcement agencies like the Cape Girardeau Police Department, the Jackson Police Department, the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department and the Missouri Highway Patrol," he said. "Most of the time, when a police report reaches our office, it is complete and professionally put together and contains everything we need in order to make an informed charging decision and prosecute the case."

Having been in office for 23 years, Swingle said the prosecuting attorney's office has achieved several accomplishments, including a vigorous policy for DWI prosecution that has helped shape Missouri law and a bad-check program that has collected more than a million dollars in restitution for local victims.

He said the effective use of the Major Case Squad to solve local murder cases has also been an achievement for the office.

"An unsolved murder in Cape Girardeau is a rare event since I have been in office, primarily due to the effectiveness of the Major Case Squad," he said.

The prosecuting attorney's budget from county revenue for 2010 was $967,359. The office was created under Chapter 56 of Missouri State statute. Detailed county budget information is available at www.capecounty.us/Budgetary%20Info.aspx.

cbartholomew@semissourian.com

243-8600

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