Desmond: state attorney’s office has a ‘broken system’
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Finding examples of cases that have created a strained relationship between the state attorney’s office and law enforcement in the 2nd Judicial Circuit wasn’t difficult for Sean Desmond.
He just pointed to the case of Gadsden County Sheriff Maurice Young, who was charged with having a furlough program for Gadsden County inmates without permission.
Desmond was just as quick to point out a case that speaks to one of the other key issues in his platform – the right to a speedy trial. Henry Segura’s case is exhibit A.
Segura is accused of the 2010 murder of his ex-girlfriend and her three children. His trial has been put off several times, with the latest date set for March 27, 2017.
“Under no circumstance should that case not have gone to trial,” Desmond said, as the case was brought to his attention as one that has lingered in the state attorney’s office. “That is a glaring example of the system failing. We have a broken system.”
Desmond, 40, wants to fix the system and in a week he’ll find out if he will be the one to stay in the race for the job of his former boss current state attorney’s Willie Meggs. He is competing against Jack Campbell in the Democratic primary, with the winner to face Republican Pete Williams for the office.
Desmond is no stranger to the position. He worked twice for Meggs, the first from 2001 through 2003 and later from 2009 to 2011. He also was chief of the Leon County Court Division, after serving as chief assistant state attorney in Franklin County and Wakulla County.
“He is not status quo,” said Jon Maceluch, a former partner in private practice and former co-worker in the state attorney’s office. “He brings a fresh look; it’s not just everybody is supposed to [be] prosecuted to the fullest of the law. He’s been on both sides.”
While observing the execution of the law from both sides, Desmond said, he’s seen a double standard that often treats Blacks different from Whites and rich and poor. That, he said, is a chink in the system.
“We want to make sure we are taking care of our victims, but we are not allowing people that have money to get better sentences because they can pay the full restitution,” he said. “What ends up happening is people of lesser income are suffering more sentences; perpetuating the cycle.”
Desmond, who in 2008, ran for county judge, advancing through that primary but lost in the general election.
As far as Desmond has come in law, he wasn’t quite sure he’d become an attorney. It took him a year after graduating from Boston before enrolling at FSU law school.
“I always found the law very intriguing (although) it wasn’t something I was very passionate about in my youth,” Desmond said.
But he developed a penchant while serving in Franklin County. At the urging of the community and the family of a murdered victim, he reopened the case that had gone cold for several years.
Within eight months, there was an arrest and indictment of a suspect who was ruled incompetent to stand trial.
“For the first time in my professional career I started to feel at home,” he said, expressing satisfaction in knowing that he’d been able to help the victim’s family.
“It was a moment of closure for a lot of people and family members that had suffered because no one had been called to stand trial for this horrific murder,” he said. “I felt like I called some accountability to it.”
Just like he did when he and his three siblings were being groomed by their father to care about helping others. He kept them engaged in volunteerism and in a subtle way that is at the forefront of his quest to win the state attorney job and help people, he said.
“It was what I saw growing up,” Desmond said. “That got into my DNA in what I wanted to do; how can I, improve things for people.”