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Jacob Scott Wieber, Fargo, Published July 07 2012

Prosecutors step over legal lines

In the front-page story published by The Forum on July 2, “Taking a second look,” concerning the killing of Tremaine Settles, it was reported that in January, Assistant State’s Attorney Leah Viste and prosecutor Ryan Younggren “declined to file charges against Settles’ alleged killer, Billy Edward Oliver, saying they couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he wasn’t acting in self-defense.”

I would remind Viste and Younggren that, as officers of the state, it is not their job to establish whether there exists proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That is the job of a jury of Oliver’s peers. It is their job only to establish whether there exists probable cause for arrest (and, considering the evidence cited in The Forum’s article, probable cause almost certainly exists in this case).

I would also remind Viste and Younggren that the assumption that it is the job of officers of the state to determine whether a person is innocent or guilty is exactly the assumption that was made by the police officers and police chief in Sanford, Fla., which led to the massive media fiasco that was the fallout of the killing of Trayvon Martin. We should not like to see a repeat of that scenario here in Fargo.