Q&A With Pat Merriman Dunn County State’s Attorney

As promised in our first edition, our first feature will always be replies to reader questions/ comments. Whether you email us or, just walk up to Pat Merriman at Nana Lil’s (at breakfast) or just approach him on the streets of Killdeer, we will try to get you an answer for any question related to crime, local law enforcement agencies, statistics or the operation of the States Attorney’s Office in Killdeer, ND. If the writer allows us to use their name in our response, we will do so. If they are shy, we will respect their privacy and use their initials.

Either way, we are here to serve you and answer your questions.

Please avoid the use of profanity and be patient. We will get to you as we tweak and update our information.

SS asks Q- “What’s it like to try a high profile case like the Misrasi felony case?” A-[by Pat] A jury “trial” is exactly that. It’s an ordeal for all parties concerned. Anyone who has ever quipped, “So…sue me” has never been through a lawsuit. The North Dakota Canons of Ethics do not allow a “prosecutor” (me) to directly comment on the facts of a pending case. And, since Mr. Misrasi has not yet been sentenced, the case is still pending before Judge Greenwood.

At this point, a pre-sentence investigation is being performed by the DOCR so that the Judge will have as much information about the defendant as possible before he is sentenced.

That usually takes +/- 30 days.

So, in general, what is a major felony case like to try? Hmm…I was raised with a work ethic that said that best man takes point, i.e., whoever is best qualified is in charge. And, if there is unpleasant work to be done, you suck it up and do it first because…that’s your job. Frankly, I wanted to be a cardiac surgeon when I was a kid but, my career took a different tack. And, with over 230 jury trials under my belt, a complex jury trial is, basically, 1 week of trial preparation (witnesses, exhibits, trial briefs, motions, etc.), usually 1 day of jury selection, the rest of the trial is, well, a “trial” will lots of stress between long periods of tedious testimony followed by a few hours of public speaking (closing argument) and then more stress while you wait for the jury to deliberate; and, then, about 1 week to recover sleep and deal with accumulated paperwork at the office. So, I guess, the short answer is that a jury trial is a lot like your spouse being in labor…stressful and exhausting but, usually, with a fair result at the end of the ordeal. It remains the best system in the world.

In all humility, the one thing I do always say is that there really isn’t anything for the prosecutor to celebrate at the end of a jury trial.

Nothing I do ever puts the victim (or their family) back where they were before this tragic event. I can assure you that they never wanted to meet me professionally ever. And, although I do take satisfaction in seeing a criminal get what’s coming to him/her, all you have to do is turn your head, after the jury verdict is read aloud, and see the defendant’s family sobbing to realize that every criminal conviction comes with another price too. There is a measure of judgment for the victim but, not just the convicted felon pays that penalty…his/her loved ones do too. So, SS, I do love my job because I am competent at it I think.

I guess my constituents will be the best judge of that. But, I also realize that finding justice in the criminal justice system is often in the eye of the beholder.

Regardless, thank you all  for giving me the opportunity to serve you and the public.

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