What Scouts, 4H’ers, prosecutors share in common

By Carol O’Brien - Guest Columnist

A Scout is: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

Scouts vow to: “do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”

Those are impressive goals. In fact, the phrase “out of the mouths of babes” seems appropriate, a saying uttered when a child says something wise beyond their years.

I’m a bit older than a Girl Scout, but as a prosecutor I can appreciate the oaths and laws of organizations such as the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and 4H. I would also say that a good prosecutor shares many of the same ideals.

A prosecutor is prepared, professional, friendly, sincere, caring, strong, empathic, curious, emotional, and a minister of justice. While it’s not outlined in an official oath, these are traits you will find in the best prosecutors, in every office, in every state.

Prosecutors have a very different role from other participants in the criminal justice system. We don’t have a specific client. Instead, we represent all citizens. My office specifically represents the citizens of Delaware County, Ohio.

To best serve our community, prosecutors continually develop the traits outlined above to be effective, just as the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and 4H participants work to develop the traits in their oaths and laws in order to become good citizens.

In this month of resolutions, it is good to take a look back, perhaps back to “simpler times,” as people like to say. Sometimes we need to make sure we’re on track with the basics so we have a good foundation to build on.

Again I’m reminded of the various guidelines our children learn, points such as: I believe in 4H Club work for the opportunity it will give me to become a useful citizen. I believe in the training of my HEAD for the power it will give me to think, plan, and to reason. I believe in the training of my HEART for the nobleness it will give me to be kind, sympathetic, and true. I believe in the training of my HANDS for the ability it will give me to be helpful, skillful, and useful. I believe in the training of my HEALTH for the strength it will give me to enjoy life, to resist disease, and to work efficiently. I believe in my country, my state, my community, and in my responsibility for their development. In all these things I believe, and am willing to dedicate my efforts to their fulfillment.

Wow! Our children are amazing, and we can all learn from them.

Prosecutors are always learning. New procedures, revised laws — in Delaware County we are still learning our way around the new courthouse!

I have to say it’s not always easy to be a prosecutor. We must be professional in dealing with the public, with Judges and court personnel, with defense counsel, defendants, witnesses, victims, and friends and families of victims. Yes, it’s our job, but there is a human side to it, an emotional side that can pull at the heartstrings and test our limits.

A prosecutor has to be caring and strong. We deal with situations that many times, represent the most difficult circumstances a person will ever face. We speak with victims who want to be anywhere else… and they make that very clear. Prosecutors don’t take it personally. We work to help those affected by crime understand the system and explain why we have to ask the same questions over and over. We rejoice when a victim emerges stronger because it means justice has prevailed.

A prosecutor is emotional and empathic, though no one may see it. Just like there is no crying in baseball, there is no crying in trial. I must admit there are times when this has been extremely difficult, and I’ve even had to briefly pause in the middle of questioning a witness.

Even the hardest most experienced prosecutors toss and turn at night thinking about their strategy for the next day in court, and then the next night, analyzing what they could have done differently. As a prosecutor, we develop a bond with victims, with families, and with witnesses. They trust us, and it’s hard to know the truth, which is that despite as strongly as we believe in our case, in our victim and witnesses, the verdict may be a letdown.

Prosecutors are curious and prepared. We want to know everything about the facts of a case. We ask questions and follow up questions, and follow up questions pertaining to the follow up questions. You get the idea. We do this not only to present the best case, but also to prepare ourselves and our witnesses for whatever happens in court.

As I was binge-watching Law and Order during our time off, one scene rang particularly true. Two prosecutors were meeting with their boss after a day of trial. Nothing unusual there, but the scene did add an extra bit of realism. Through the window it was dark, and you could see the moon. Just like real life. So add one more word to the list of descriptors… A prosecutor is tired, but tired in the most fulfilling way.


By Carol O’Brien

Guest Columnist

Carol O’Brien is Delaware County Prosecutor.

Carol O’Brien is Delaware County Prosecutor.