David N. Clayton worked until noon Wednesday for the public defender system; by 4:30 p.m., following an appointment by Gov. Jay Nixon, he was at work on the other side of the judicial scale, as Marion County prosecutor.
“I have no desk or computer and I’m sitting on one of two chairs in the office; the phone is in the other chair and I have papers in my lap,” he said during a telephone interview with the Courier-Post late Wednesday afternoon. “Nothing on the walls, no desk. We’re trying to make the best of this, with what we have to work with.”
The newly appointed prosecutor is picking up the pieces following Tom Redington’s abrupt departure from the office following his appointment to the job of associate judge for Knox County on …
Clayton will work closely with Doug Browne, assistant prosecutor for the last 23 years. Browne previously announced that he would leave the county payroll as of midnight tonight. Clayton said Browne has agreed to stay on a bit in order to ensure the transition is orderly.
“My goal is to start next week,” Clayton said. “Mr. Brown will be working with me closely.”
Clayton had not made a secret of the fact that he was interested in the job of Marion County prosecutor. “I had been thinking about it, and had made my decision that I would run. I was not sure if a vacancy was available, but I definitely planned to file for office in February. This appointment will give me a better opportunity to serve the citizens of Marion County and to get off to a much quicker start working with the judges, law enforcement, police, sheriff and all the public officers to ensure the safety of our community.”
He believes that the 10 years he has spent working with the public defender system gives him the foundation he needs for the job ahead. “During the last 10 years I began to see things differently,” he said, regarding crime and the problems associated with domestic and substance abuse. “I began to shift my priority to serving the citizens of Marion County. The public defender’s office has been a very good springboard or platform to get experience to serve this job as prosecutor.
The biggest challenge ahead for his office is public safety, and he plans on tackling this with a two-pronged approach, keeping both the safety of citizens and the potential for rehabilitation in mind.
“The most immediate threat to the safety and security of our county is the increased use and distribution of deadly drugs such as meth, heroine, synthetic drugs and bath salts, things of that nature” Clayton said.
Page 2 of 3 - “Once heroine was injected intravenously. That might have had a deterrent effect,” Clayton said. “Now it is being produced in capsule form. Oftentimes, people who are given these drugs may not know what they are getting, and that has resulted in accidental overdoses. We need to do everything we can to put a stop to that.
“I will be more aggressive in enforcement of the laws meant to stop this,” he said.
“On the same token, we want to be fair in that there are those individuals who are not beyond redemption; through aggressive community supervision they can be rehabilitated and lead healthy, productive lives so they can become contributing members of society again.
“I think the people who serve the community in the capacity of counselor or therapist are doing our community a tremendous service, but that can’t be the only answer. They can’t do it alone. It takes law enforcement, treatment facilities, family support, and spiritual support - all these tools to come together to assist these people in coming clean.”
Then, there are the repeat offenders. “We will pursue charges against them very aggressively,” Clayton said. “It is an ongoing and continuing challenge. I’m looking forward to working with Judge Bringer Shepherd and Judge Jackson, Carolyn Conner, Valerie Munzlinger, all the officials who make the court system work, probation, parole, police, sheriff, all contribute to a safer community.”
But prosecuting the accused is not his only focus. “If you, God forbid, find yourself a victim of a crime, people have to realize that the prosecutor will stand by them and with them. This will be especially the case for victims and family for cases involving children and the elderly.”
He plans for the prosecutor’s office, located in the basement of the Marion County courthouse at Hannibal, to be accessible to the public. “We will do everything we can. Victims will be welcome there; their rights and their considerations are a very high priority to me.”
As far as potential conflicts regarding the 10 years he spent as a public defender, he sees few ahead.
“The good thing is I practiced all over Northeast Missouri - 16 different counties. I have practiced everywhere but Marion County. That allows me to avoid the high number of conflicts. It has been beneficial for me to work in so many other counties, so I can return to my home county and not have conflict cases.”
He admits he will enjoy working closer to home. “I’m looking forward to not driving to Lancaster, Monticello, Paris, Shelbyville, to Audrain County and on and on and on,” he said.
Page 3 of 3 - As for Doug Browne, Clayton was sincere with his praise. “I want to thank Mr. Browne for his years of service. He is a very dedicated public servant and the community will miss having him as an assistant prosecutor. He has expressed his wishes to retire, and I respect that,” Clayton said.
Plans are in the works to hire a new assistant prosecutor, Clayton said.