Edwards eyes return to Prosecutor’s Office

HOUGHTON – Douglas Edwards, who spent 20 years as prosecutor for Houghton County, wants to regain the position.

Edwards is running as an independent against incumbent Democrat Michael Makinen. James Cone, who was the Republican candidate, announced his withdrawal Thursday after accepting a job at a legal firm in Georgia.

Edwards said he was looking to “restore confidence and credibility in the prosecutor’s office.” He pointed to Makinen’s narrow 2012 win as evidence of weak backing.

“There were over 900 people that refused to vote for either him or Pam Dobbs,” he said. “I felt, back when I announced last year, that if I run against him, I’m going to get some of those 900 votes, and I’m going to beat him.”

Edwards received a degree in criminal justice law enforcement from Northern Michigan University. After law school, he accepted a job at Wisti & Jaaskelainen. All his life, he said, he’d wanted to be a prosecutor.

“I like criminal law,” he said. “I had two choices: I could work on behalf of the government, and do good, or represent defendants. It’s good money, a good job, but I just felt better on the government side.”

Edwards credited his former boss of four years, Andrew Wisti, as his biggest influence.

“Every time I read a police report, I handle it as though it happened to me,” he said. “In my 20 years, I only had two complaints from families, and in both of them, the law was against me … other than that, when the victim said, “Let’s go to trial, this is what I want,’ I’d pass that on to the defense attorney. They didn’t like it, we went to trial … I liked the way Mr. Wisti treated his clients. I did the same in my 20 years.”

Edwards said he also showed trust in residents by being one of the first prosecutors in the Upper Peninsula to grant permits for concealed-carry weapons.

As part of law enforcement, Edwards said, he felt he shouldn’t run on a partisan ticket.

“Just think if our politicians said, ‘Every officer now who’s currently employed or future ones have to declare a party preference before they’re hired,'” he said. “We’d all go, ‘What are you, crazy?’ Well, a prosecutor is law enforcement, just a step down. They do the hard work, we complete it … we don’t make the law, we don’t interpret it. We just enforce it.”

Edwards touted his 98 percent conviction rate, which he said would convince the defendants to settle before a case goes to trial. In his first two terms, Edwards said, he had seven murder cases. Of those, all went to prison but one, he said, who is in a mental institution.

“I don’t treat the rich any better than the poor, or the well-known any better than the unknown,” he said. “I try to be fair … All the defense attorneys knew, when I charged something it wasn’t because I knew them or I knew the defendant. You got the same deal.”

Asked why voters should prefer him, Edwards said Makinen was “not a prosecutor” and better-suited to behind-the-scenes work.

“Mr. Makinen is a lawyer that every law firm needs,” he said. “He does great research, he puts everything together, so he can hand it to the trial lawyer, off they go and they do the best they can. He’s not the trial lawyer, the public official he’d like to be … criminal law is a specialty, and of the candidates, I’m the only one who loves to practice criminal law.”

Edwards would like to see county residents skip the prosecutor part of the ballot for the uncontested August primaries, in order to “surprise us in November to see who’s the winner.” For the general election, he said, people who don’t vote shouldn’t complain.

“There are 25,000 voters registered in Houghton County and only 15,000 actually vote,” he said. “You see it in the presidential election, and it’s sad that approximately 10,000 people don’t think it’s worthwhile.”