Should State Judges Be Allowed to Act as Prosecutors?

August 3 2009, 11:44 AM

Thanks to an obscure Colorado law written when the West was wild, state judges also have a power traditionally reserved for prosecutors: They're allowed to determine whether a person should be charged as a criminal. The 19th-century law had been all but forgotten until recently, when two high-profile cases of rape and murder came up, causing a ruckus among lawyers who question the law's constitutionality, the Los Angeles Times reports. After all, a similar law was struck down decades ago in Wyoming. "A judge should have no business doing a prosecutor's job," says Iris Eytan, who represents Riley McMurdo, one of two men accused in the sexual assault of Julie Stene. Stene recently told the press that she was assaulted about eight years ago, after a high school graduation party, by McMurdo and Clyde Surrell, a former University of Colorado football player. Meanwhile, in Chaffee County a similar legal battle is taking place over Nancy Mason, whose death during a fishing trip has increasingly appeared suspicious to authorities who initially ruled her broken neck an accident. As Fox 31 reports, her husband, Dan Mason, is now the center of investigators' attention.