Experienced attorneys fill deputy DA slate
Newly elected 22nd Judicial District Attorney Will Furse will rely on a combination of local experience and fresh vision to staff the prosecutor's office and handle criminal matters in the district for the next four years.
Four deputies will be on staff at the DA's office. Two newcomers to Montezuma County along with two holdovers from predecessor Russell Wasley's office will aid Furse in handling the 22nd district's prosecutorial case load.
Prior to the election, deputy DA Brett VanWinkle left the office to open a private law practice in Durango, where he resides, and Furse had informed former Chief District Attorney Andrew Hughes and Deputy DA Emily Vandenberg that they would not be retained. Hughes, who flirted with the idea of challenging Furse in the general election, later dropped that bid and resigned to take a job overseas.
Furse said the attorneys he selected boast a wide range of experience from both sides of the courtroom, defense and prosecutorial, along with backgrounds in civil and criminal work.
"All are competent and dynamic trial attorneys with a passion for their work," Furse said. "All (the) attorneys possess the skills to handle both felony and misdemeanor cases although their docket assignments will inherently focus on one or the other."
Adam Barnhurst, 32, holds a bachelor of science degree in statistics with a business minor from Brigham Young University and a law degree from the University of Denver. A holdover from Wasley's staff, Barnhurst has been working for the 22nd Judicial District since February 2009.
For his first 18 months on the job, Barnhurst prosecuted misdemeanor cases in Montezuma County. His last two-and-a-half years have been spent prosecuting felony cases in Montezuma County and all the district attorney's cases in Dolores County.
Barnhurst said there are numerous reasons why he chose to become a prosecutor, but added that he was always interested in criminal law. The sluggish economy turned out to be a blessing for him as it forced him into a job he loves.
While in law school he thought working as a prosecutor was not a realistic choice because he had a family to support, and the lower wage for prosecutors, compared to other kinds of legal work, was not appealing.
"A down economy closed the door on other opportunities I had planned on, though, and made prosecution an option, and I have loved every minute of it and wouldn't choose to do anything else," he said.
Debra Eurich, 52, graduated from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2004 and has been practicing as a criminal prosecutor since December 2004 in Washington state.
Eurich has prosecuted close to 100 criminal jury trials, mostly misdemeanors involving driving under the influence and domestic violence.
She also has prosecuted felony drug charges, rape cases, bomb threats and robberies.
"I specialized in animal cruelty prosecutions and wrote an animal cruelty bill that was passed in 2009," Eurich said in an email. "I was a founding member of the Mental Health Court and DUI court, and was the drug court prosecutor for 18 months."
Eurich said being a prosecutor is her second career.
"I went back to school after putting my daughter through college," she said. "I have always loved the law and specifically chose criminal prosecution so that I could serve my community and ensure that justice is done. Through the treatment courts I am able to help others."
Lynda Carter, 50, completed her undergraduate work at the University of Wyoming in 2004, graduating with honors. She graduated from Florida State University College of Law in 2008.
After the completion of law school, Carter moved to Pagosa Springs to open a law practice and focused on general practice so she could experience civil and criminal work, and also took on a few family law cases.
Carter felt she needed something more, so she applied and won a scholarship to Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyer's College in Wyoming. She attended the initial course and returned for a graduate course and a death penalty seminar.
Prior to Carter's law career she was involved in both law enforcement and corrections in Florida. After being injured on the job, she chose to attend law school so she could continue helping the public and her community.
Carter said she made that choice after a long conversation with Spence while living in Jackson Hole, Wyo. She was a student at the University of Wyoming and met him at a book signing. He lived about three miles from her. After being injured, she realized she could do more good with an education.
"No matter how good your ideas are, if you do not have the diploma to back it up, very few people listen to you," she said.
She chose Pagosa Springs and Southwest Colorado as the places where to work because of the dearth of attorneys in the area.
"I opened my own practice, and through cases I worked, I happened to meet several attorneys who were likeminded in public service and wanting to see things more fair in the system," she said. "I believe Will Furse to be this type of attorney. I never thought I would work for anyone but myself, but to have a chance to promote a safe community while balancing the rights of all, and doing it where you can affect more than one person at a time is a great opportunity."
Carter hopes to bring her background as a law enforcement officer and supervisor as well as her education and experience as an attorney to the DA's office.
"I think with a well-rounded past, I can use common sense, reason, and the law to be the type of prosecutor that can help bring justice here while respecting everyone that comes into contact with the system," she said.
Tom Farrell, 63, is no stranger to Montezuma County, having worked under Wasley and the late Jim Wilson, a former 22nd Judicial District Attorney.
Farrell first came to the local office at the request of Wilson, who asked the attorney to prosecute some sexual assault cases while Wilson was busy with murder trials. He came back to the county last year after Hughes resigned to take a job overseas. Farrell was selected to fill the position through the last four months of Wasley's term.
A well-rounded attorney with a wealth of experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney, Farrell served nearly 11 years as a public defender on the municipal level, 12 years as a prosecutor and another 11 years as a private defense attorney. He also taught criminal justice courses for the University of Phoenix in Westminster, Colo.
After graduating from Delaware Law School in 1982, Farrell was hired by the Adams County District Attorney's Office where he worked from 1984 to 1990. He prosecuted major felonies, including his forte, charges of child sexual abuse.
Farrell has served under three different district attorneys in his career as a prosecutor and once ran unsuccessfully for the top spot in Sterling, Colo.
Before his law career, Farrell worked at a recreation center in Nassau County, N.Y., and for a holding cell detention center for violent offenders between the ages of 13 and 17 in Long Island.
Farrell originally did not envision continuing as a Montezuma County prosecutor after finishing up his latest four-month stint, though he would have had only two classes to teach in the upcoming spring semester. He said his mind changed when Furse offered him one of the deputy DA positions based on the relationships he had made with the police agencies.
"This was definitely the better choice," he said.
Farrell, using Wilson's words, said "being a prosecutor is the easiest job in the world if you do the right thing."