Republican state’s attorney hopefuls stress experience, case review panels
Updated: April 2, 2012 8:04AM
All three Republican candidates for Lake County state’s attorney in the March 20 primary election propose creating some type of post-conviction or case review panel to ensure the right person is behind bars.
Louise Hayes of Lake Bluff has been an assistant state’s attorney since 1990. She has been involved in almost every part of the State’s Attorney’s Office and currently does mental health court, veteran’s court and oversees grand jury proceedings.
Michael Nerheim of Gurnee is private defense attorney who spent seven years as an assistant state’s attorney in Lake County. His private practice handles felony, juvenile, misdemeanor, traffic and civil cases.
Bryan Winter of Lake Barrington spent 27 years as a prosecutor for municipalities. He has been the Gurnee and Kildeer village attorney for seven years.
“I think the No. 1 priority right now is a post-conviction review board in conjunction with retraining our staff top to bottom, including extensive training on DNA,” Hayes said. She noted the review board would “continually make sure that the right person is behind bars” and would include attorneys, law enforcement personnel, scientists and other community members.
Nerheim said the first thing he would do if elected would be to implement a Case Review Panel consisting of retired judges, law enforcement members and others. The panel would give older cases a fresh set of eyes and develop protocols for how new cases would be handled.
“The biggest thing is to get it right the first time,” Nerheim said.
Both Nerheim’s and Hayes’ proposed panels would examine all kinds of cases, including but not limited, to ones that involved DNA.
Winter‘s proposed panel would include State’s Attorney’s Office staff and members of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force.
“That panel would be assigned the responsibility of providing a fresh, ongoing review of cases where there is new evidence or where there is inconsistent evidence,” Winter said.
Winter said his other two top priorities include increasing gang prevention initiatives and expanding cooperation between local law enforcement agencies and the State’s Attorney’s Office. He said the Major Crime Task Force’s duties could be expanded to investigate gang activities.
“Of all six candidates, I have been an attorney the longest. I have the most diverse legal background — I’ve handled criminal, civil and municipal law,” Winter said. “I want to utilize my experience at the municipal level and apply that at the county level.”
Winter is married and has a 19-year-old son.
In addition to creating a review board, Hayes said she wants to reallocate funds for the cybercrime division and wants to continue programs run by the State’s Attorney’s Office such as the Major Crash Assistance Team and the Children’s Advocacy Center.
“I think that I am the most qualified to do this job. I have been the representative of the people of Lake County and prosecuting for more than 20 years. I know that office inside and out,” Hayes said.
Hayes is married and a mother of four children.
Nerheim is married and a father of three.
Aside from his main goal of implementing the review panel, Nerheim said he wants to implement in-house training to keep prosecutors on top of case law as it advances.
“Not to say they don’t understand, but case law and DNA law changes frequently. It requires ongoing training,” Nerheim said.
He said he’s running to help keep the county safe. His slogan is: “I’m running for my family and yours.”
“I see the job as state’s attorney as being the chief law enforcement officer in the county to keep the streets safe,” Nerheim said.