Mike Jette’s Audition for Pima County Attorney Did Not Go as Planned..? and a Personal Endorsement

With the hung jury and the decision not to retry him, Mr. George Alan Kelly has essentially gotten away with the murder of Gabriel Cuen-Butimea, a member of a class of persons whom the MAGAs consider less than human. They will certainly celebrate and lionize him as some sort of twisted ‘hero’, much like the thuggish wannabe Brown Shirt #KillerKyle Rittenhouse.

Mike Jette

Of course, Mr. Kelly may ultimately pay dearly for his crime in civil damages, but he won’t be going to jail for it.

Mr. Michael Jette, who led the prosecution under contract for the Santa Cruz County Attorney’s office, is fully responsible for this outcome. He chose to lead the prosecution and make the closing arguments that failed to close the deal with a reticent jury. According to the defense counsel—which, given the Santa Cruz declination to refile, I think is credible on this point—7 of the 8 jurors favored acquittal.

Good job getting tough on crime, Mr. Jette. And for creating the conditions for a possible diplomatic crisis.

If Mr. Jette thought that leading this prosecution and securing Kelly’s conviction would be an excellent strategy to boost his campaign for the Democratic nomination to Pima County Attorney against incumbent Lauren Conover, I don’t know if he even really considered the possible impact of possible failure.

One of the major themes of Jette’s campaign against Conover is that as a career prosecutor -which Conover is not – he would personally train prosecutors and lead, supervise, and even try some of the most serious cases brought by the Pima County Attorney’s Office. That argument looks like it might – and rightly should – backfire on his campaign.

Mr. Jette has proven a few things about his leadership qualities and fitness for the job of County Attorney with his handling of the Kelly case, in my view:

Jette failed to ensure that the investigators did everything possible to backfill the obvious deficiencies in the evidence able to be presented to the jury. The simple fact alone that investigators failed to ever recover the bullet that killed Gabriel Cuen-Butimea for testing left sufficient room for reasonable doubt in the case, and it was not the only investigative deficiency through which a skillful defense was able to manufacture doubt. Mr. Jette appears to have brought a weak case to trial – possibly for the wrong reasons.

Jette failed to understand how the obvious gaps and mistakes in the investigation would play with a jury from the border region given the current media narratives, and failed to properly evaluate the likelihood of Mr. Kelly’s conviction when bringing and charging this case. Kelly’s trial and functional acquittal will, in my view, potentially have a worse effect on the deterrence of similar violence than would a declination due to insufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Nutcases up and down the border might now conclude (unreasonably, but when does reason enter into their decisions?) that they, too, can get away with shooting innocent and unarmed immigrants.

Rancher George Alan Kelly

Jette failed to understand how to select a jury from the Santa Cruz community that would be open to conviction in a case such as this. This is a failure of Jette’s leadership and strategy. I don’t know exactly what resources Jette employed during jury selection to ensure full and proper vetting of the jury pool and to determine their biases, but it was arguably deficient, given that 7 of the 8 jurors were reportedly inclined to acquit.

I will freely and unhesitatingly admit that, from his work in the courtroom that I was able to observe, Mr. Jette is obviously a skilled and experienced prosecutor. But that skill set alone is, in my view, not enough to lead an office like the Pima County Attorney’s office—and it is not really the correct evaluation metric from which to judge a candidate’s fitness for this sort of office.

From the result of the Kelly trial, I think there are reasons to doubt whether Jette is actually well-suited to lead our County Attorney’s Office. Would the result of Mr. Jette’s leadership enhance public safety and respect for the rule of law in Pima County? I have some doubts.

Add to the misgivings I discussed above the simple fact that Mr. Jette has been less than fully honest and forthcoming about the facts regarding public safety in our community while on the campaign trail (claiming that crime has climbed when it has, in fact, declined during Conover’s term), and has misleadingly tried to inflate the seriousness and probity of a minor bar complaint against County Attorney Conover by a supporter of his candidacy (on the basis of a bar complaint about a single Facebook post while she was initially running for election he has savaged her probity, ethics, and character), and his close association with the sour grapes of former County Attorney LaWall and her coterie of acolytes, the departure of whom from the County Attorney’s Office I did not, and do not lament, in the main. I conclude that Mr. Jette’s personal motives and ethics are perhaps… in question.

Barbara Lawall

I would only briefly add to those misgivings his rather recent turn toward the Democratic Party; we are a big tent and welcome the support of all – including reasonable and patriotic conservatives, which Mr. Jette certainly sounds like to me – but it is not always our strongest choice to make those worthies our nominees for the party.

In contrast, to evaluate the fitness of County Attorney Conover, all we must do is fairly evaluate the results she has thus far achieved with her time in office, and her performance as a guardian of the human and civil rights of our citizens in the face of unprecedented assaults by our State Government. My defense of Conover in a recent opinion letter to the editor has been borne out since I penned it, and my opinion on Conover’s fitness and aptitude for the role has only been enhanced by her performance since I endorsed her election in 2020 over a similarly qualified rival for our party’s candidacy.

Consider this my personal strong endorsement of Laura Conover for renomination and re-election. Of course, this is just my personal opinion, and it is not necessarily shared by all the people or organizations with whom I am associated, nor will it affect the way Mr. Jette is treated by any such organizations. Evaluate my reasons with your own judgement and information, please, and take my endorsement only for what you judge it to be worth.

Despite my judgments on the failures of his candidacy thus far, Mr. Jette continues to have my highest respect as a fellow attorney and prosecutor. I esteem his willingness to undergo the rigors and indignities of contesting for public office, and I salute his clear ongoing desire to serve his community. I wish him well and hope that he will find ways to apply his obvious skills and ambition to provide our community with his service and devotion to the public interest should he come up short in this primary contest.

3 thoughts on “Mike Jette’s Audition for Pima County Attorney Did Not Go as Planned..? and a Personal Endorsement”

  1. It was, of course, the Santa Cruz CA and not Jette who charged the case and made the decision not to retry it. The investigation had been done months before he was hired on to try the case and the CA not Jette decided what resources to apply. The case was tried for good reasons but it is not surprising that there was not a conviction given the politics of the border and the enmity that many show towards those trying to cross. As to picking a jury, surely you are aware of the change in rules of preemptory strikes that makes it virtually impossible to get rid of jurors you think might be a problem. As to the bar complaint against conover (who I also supported in 2020) do you really believe the Bar sanctioned her for a social media post before she took office. Yes, that’s what she claims but she could erase any doubt by releasing the actual findings of the Bar rather than simply her diversion agreement. Why won’t she do that? The ER (ethical rules) cited in what she did release have to do with conflict of interest, not social media flubs. Why don’t you ask her to allow you to read the findings to confirm the narrative she wants out there. The office is in crises. The few remaining attorneys are drowning and more are leaving. It is a very sad state of affairs.


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