Thursday, May 12, 2016

Response from Teresa Hensley, Attorney General Candidate

1. What do you view as the key role, and/or attributes needed for this position? What experience/attributes do you have that qualify you for this position? 

The Attorney General is an office that can make such a difference in people’s everyday lives. I became a lawyer and a prosecutor to make a positive difference in people’s lives. I believe my record shows I have. I’ll never put one contributor or my own political agenda ahead of justice. Democrats need a candidate with the courtroom experience to do the job and the ability to win in November.

That’s why I’m running. I have a unique understanding of the power and importance of the Office of the Attorney General. 

I am the only candidate for Attorney General - Democrat or Republican - who has been inside the courtroom for 24 years fighting for victims of abuse, fraud, and violence, 10 of those years as an elected County Prosecutor.

2. Why do you think you are the best person for this position? What differentiates you from your opponent(s)?

I am the only candidate who has served an elected Prosecutor, putting 21 murderers and hundreds of felons behind bars, and has over 500 sexual assault, domestic violence and child sex abuse convictions.

I’m the only candidate who has repeatedly been smart on crime and used alternative courts - DWI courts, drug courts, mental health courts and veterans' courts - to rehabilitate wrongdoers rather than fill prisons. 

I’m the only candidate who has any experience representing her constituents in a court of law as a county prosecutor. 

I’m the only candidate who understands how it feels to take a victim's hand and let her know, "I'm here for you."

I believe my experience and my record makes me best suited to handle the complex cases within the Attorney General’s office. Experience of the kind I bring, is earned. It comes from late nights, from hard-nosed research for trial, from long hours interviewing witnesses, and rehearsing arguments with fellow attorneys to determine what evidence should be used at trial. My opponents simply don’t have that first-hand experience like I do. They may try to buy victory with their money, but they can never buy experience. It’s an important difference between us. And it’s a message voters care about.

3. What do you feel are the most pressing issues currently facing this office and what plans do you have to address these issues? (please be specific)

Sexual assault, domestic violence and child sex abuse cases are a priority. They were treated as a priority for filing purposes while I was prosecutor. We were aware of the need to act quickly for the safety and emotional stability of our victims. In my 10 years I had over 400 convictions of sexual assault and domestic violence cases and 93 child sexual abuse convictions. These are the most difficult cases to make and many prosecutors do not file them because they are "he said she said". We filed them and made them. As Attorney General, I will work with organizations around the state to seek best practices in the handling of these cases. I have done best practices trainings with law enforcement, children's division and prosecutors on handling these cases. As AG I will continue to make them a priority in both awareness and seeking best practices.

The Attorney General is the keeper of the flame for the Sunshine Law in Missouri. Transparency in government is necessary to an effective government. As AG I will seek to do trainings around the state with elected official at every level to ensure that not only the elected officials, but also those working for them know and understand the significance of the Sunshine Law. 

Prison is not always the best solution. I’ve utilized and will advance alternative courts. As County Prosecutor I was aware that the criminal cases charged were the results of drug abuse, alcohol abuse and mental issues. While I sent a lot of really bad people to prison, I also utilized alternative courts such as DWI and Drug courts. We didn't always charge criminals, sometimes we were charging an individual who just made a bad decision on any given night. Alternative courts provide an option instead of prison giving someone charged with a crime an opportunity to be rehabilitated and restore their lives to be a productive member of society. We have seen tremendous success with these courts around Missouri. As Attorney General I will seek to make DWI courts, Drug courts, Mental Health courts and Veterans courts available in all counties and court circuits in the state. I will call for a task force to look at making these courts affordable and efficient around the state.

4. Describe how you work with, or will work with, others to address your priorities.

As Attorney General I will continue to reach out to law enforcement, prosecutors and the public, to organize best practices to not only prosecute, but help prevent crimes. 

I was the first and only prosecutor in state to put together a memorandum of understanding for consensual blood draws between the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the five fire districts of Cass County and in 2014, I was selected by the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (MAPA) to serve as Chair of the Missouri DWI and Traffic Safety Best Practices Committee.

I started a Senior Scam notice at the places where money is wired and I had a Senior Scam presentation. I also have presented Women’s Safety programs, Sexual Assault Investigation Training, Merchant and Bad Check training.

5. Who are your 3 largest campaign contributors? Do you have a policy on accepting lobbyist gifts? Are there donors from whom you will not accept campaign contributions?

      St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council
      Kenneth McClain
      Pipefitters Local 533

Have never been a legislator or offered lobbyist gifts. 

Would not accept contributions from Rex Sinquefield. David Humphries. Likely more….

6. Would you support the appointment of a special prosecutor at the state level for all officer involved shootings?

It is already required of elected prosecutors to seek out a special prosecutor if there is a legal conflict of interest. As an elected prosecutor I believe that not only should you seek a special prosecutor when there is a legal conflict of interest, but also a duty when there is an appearance of impropriety as well to seek a special prosecutor. 

I would prefer that this republican legislature not make this decision by statute, but that the next Attorney General initiate a task force to explore how to best deal with police shootings in the future by bringing together judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, and activist groups to find the best course of action.

7. As the state’s top law enforcement professional, how will you work to bridge the gap between police/prosecutors and low-income communities of color?

I have a record as an elected prosecutor of bringing people to the table time and time again to seek solutions that concern our community. I held task forces with respect to child abuse investigations, blood draws, arson, domestic violence. For ten years as an elected prosecutor, that’s how I’ve worked to find best practices and how I’d bridge the gap to all communities.

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