By JIMMY LAWTON
CANTON -- St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole Duve stands by her decisions to try Wayne Oxley three times for murder, despite criticism from her Republican opponent.
Duve spoke with the press Wednesday to discuss her duties and dispel what she calls “misinformation” being spread by her district attorney candidate Mary Rain.
"I want people to understand the entirety of the job, but it is not something you can capture in a sound byte or a newspaper article." she said. "People in this office aren't here because of lavish office accommodations or big pay checks, they are here because they want to help people."
That’s what Duve, a Democrat, said she was doing when she prosecuted Oxley, formerly of Ogdensburg, on three separate occasions.
Duve has served as the county's chief prosecutor for eight years and has an additional two years experience as an assistant district attorney (ADA).
Throughout her career she has won, lost and settled on a variety of other high profiles trials, some of which she has been accused of mishandling by Rain.
Rain criticized Duve’s decision to try Oxley for murder on three separate occasions only to see him walk away. She recently held a press conference at the former home of Bernard Trickey, the man whom Oxley was accused of murdering with a baseball bat.
Rain was accompanied by members of the victim’s family at the conference, where she said Duve failed to bring justice to the Trickey family, but Duve said she did the best job she could do with the evidence she had available.
“He was convicted of murder in the first trial by 12 out of 12 members of the jury. It was appealed and the court ruled that he should have been allowed to offer evidence on his behalf that was omitted from the trial,” she said.
Following the appeal, Oxley was tried again, but the jury was unable to reach consensus.
“In the second trial eight jurors thought he was guilty and four felt there was not enough evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said. “At that point 20 out of 24 people had found him guilty. I felt it was my duty to try him a third time.”
Duve said that by this time a lot of things had happened. She said some witnesses couldn't be located and others recanted statements and committed perjury. In the end the third jury agreed there was a lack of evidence to convict Oxley of murder.
“We worked with the evidence that we had. You are always limited to what is available, but we do the right thing. It’s hard to do, but we don’t just walk away,” she said.
Duve said her experience has taught her a lot on the job that has allowed her to run the county prosecution office on a shoestring budget and limited resources.
She said high turnover in assistant district attorneys, massive caseloads and a limited budget make things difficult, but no less rewarding. She and seven ADAs see about 4,000 violations, misdemeanors and felonies each year, along with many more traffic infractions.
Duve said the workload is far too much to complete in a regular workweek and most people end up taking their work home, but said it’s rewarding to help people. Duve recalled a timed when she helped young female victim testify to grand jury about what had been done to her. Something even her mother had been unsuccessful in getting the girl to do.
Duve says that's what drives her to do the job and that it isn't the kind of job that anyone can just step into.
"This office is so busy and has so much going on that someone who isn't familiar with the inner workings, isn't familiar with the county or used to the caseload easily overwhelmed," she said. "You have to come in with your eyes wide open, you can't be afraid to work hard, you can't be afraid when things go bad. There is no quitting in this job when things get tough," she said.