Due process critical | RecordCourier.com

Due process critical

Seven months after two homes were looted in Minden, the last person accused in the case has been sentenced.

Justin Turek, for all his protestations, nodded his head when a judge asked if he’d entered the Wildrose Drive homes back in August with the intent to steal.

Looking back over the process, it took nearly six months for the 32-year-old Turek to decide whether he was going to seek a trial.

To get to the point where you plead guilty to anything in Douglas County, there are a couple of steps you have to follow. It can go quickly, but there are a couple of places where all you have to do is say stop and it all stops.

Turek’s attorney, Derrick Lopez, spent six months working on the plea deal his client eventually OK’d.

At the end of December, East Fork Justice of the Peace Tom Perkins said he was concerned that there hadn’t been a preliminary hearing since Turek’s arrest.

Had Turek insisted on a preliminary hearing, prosecutors would have had to prove he could have committed the crime. Receipts the defendant said he had on Tuesday that explained where his newfound wealth came from could have been introduced as evidence.

The next week, Visiting Judge Charles McGee asked Turek if he had signed the document. He asked if Turek understood it, and the consequences of signing it. Even with his signature on the paperwork, Turek could have said he wanted to withdraw his plea during the hearing and McGee would have set a date for a trial.

Of all the things the government can do to someone, taking their liberty is one of the most serious. We believe in due process, and believe that it was well-served in this case.