Changes in caseloads, more in-house training for deputy district attorneys and long-awaited technology advances are the first orders of business for Beth Heckert, sworn in Monday as Jackson County's first female district attorney.
Heckert, 50, replaces Mark Huddleston, who retired in December after 20 years at the helm.
Heckert selected prosecutor Jeremy Markiewicz, 34, to serve as her second-in-command. Markiewicz's legal and people skills made him the best choice, she said.
Markiewicz's financial crimes caseload will be divided up between several prosecutors, Heckert said.
Stating she is a "big fan of the team approach," Heckert has paired up DAs who not only have the skills to handle tough cases, but who will work well together, she said.
Child abuse cases will be covered by Terry Smith-Norton and Adam Peterson. And a female duo of prosecutors, Laura Cromwell and Ruby Herriott, will be handling the domestic violence caseload, Heckert said.
"I think they'll make a really good team," Heckert said.
The first of several in-house training days is slated for Jan. 18. Attorneys are required by law to have continuing education, she said, adding the sessions will be held on days the courts are closed.
"We're going to have four trainings a year. Our first is going to be an ethics presentation on dealing with the press," Heckert said.
Other training sessions will discuss search-and-seizure issues, critical injury protocol and other topics that impact the office, she said.
"We are also going to have mandatory ride-alongs with the police," Heckert said. "It's a good way to get to know new officers, and for them to connect with us. It opens communication."
Heckert said police and her office are anticipating the rollout of a new data management system that will allow reports to be received electronically. Currently officers must deliver hard-copy police reports and other documents related to any given case to the DA's office.
"We'll get (the reports) faster, and we can give them to the defense attorneys faster, too. There are a lot of good aspects to this," Heckert said, adding the new system is slated to go online in the spring.
Voters resoundingly supported Heckert's bid for Jackson County's top spot in law enforcement in May following a three-way race against challengers Rob Patridge, district director for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, and one of her colleagues, Deputy District Attorney David Hoppe.
In addition to her duties in running the DA's office, Heckert will be shepherding the county's top murder case through the justice system in the upcoming months.
Jordan Adam Criado, the Medford man accused of killing his wife and four children and lighting multiple fires in their home on July 18, 2011, has been charged with 24 counts of aggravated murder and four counts each of murder, first-degree manslaughter and first-degree arson.
"The Criado case is definitely on the horizon," said Heckert, a career prosecutor with 25 years' experience.
Performing the swearing-in honors Monday afternoon was the circuit court's presiding judge, Lorenzo Mejia. He and Heckert had arrived in Jackson County within months of one another, said the former public defender. Mejia reminisced about being Heckert's legal adversary in those early days.
"She won the big ones," Mejia said, adding both have since served as host families for foreign exchange students and "sequentially parented" a Belgian exchange student in years past, he said.
Heckert thanked all those who supported her and promised she and her fellow DAs would do their best for the county and its citizens.
"Yes, you are needed to make a difference," Heckert said to her staff, quoting from an inspirational slogan she received recently.
Huddleston gave Heckert his endorsement before the campaign, his congratulations upon her victory, and his good wishes for her tenure.
"I'm confident she'll do great things," Huddleston said.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.