Jerry Joyce: Good prosecutors target the bad guys

August 02, 2006|by BOB MAGINNIS

It happened years ago, but attorney Jerry Joyce still remembers the day he was at a motorcycle swap meet, where riders traded parts and talked about their bikes and how to make them run right.

It was a lot of fun, until three motorcycle gang members came in and saw someone they didn't like.

Joyce said they proceeded to beat him in the head with sticks, each blow making a horrible cracking noise. The victim somehow managed to get up and run from his attackers, one of whom pulled out a gun and shot him.

Fortunately, the man survived, but Joyce said that the experience showed him that there are truly evil people in the world.

Those are the kinds of people that good prosecutors get up in the morning to bring to justice, Joyce said, and that's why he's running for the Washington County State's Attorney's office.


Joyce, a 57-year-old graduate of the University of Baltimore Law School, said he originally wanted to become a Maryland State Police trooper and worked for 13 years as an investigator for that agency.

"All of my work product went to the State's Attorney's Office," he said.

After graduating from law school in 1989, he worked from 1990 to 2000 as a prosecutor in Washington County, and Carroll County, Md. It was in Carroll County that he switched to defense work, after seeing that some people weren't well-defended.

"They're very much the same job, though, because in both you're dealing with the facts of a case," he said.

It is important to deal fairly and respectfully with people, Joyce said, not only because it's the right thing to do, but because defendants in misdemeanor cases in District Court might end up as jurors.

As for the fairness issue, Joyce recounted the story of a man he defended.

His client was a $10-and-hour truck driver who had been given an overweight rig by his employer. When he was stopped and weighed, the truck was too heavy and he was charged. Joyce said the man came to court, ready to plead guilty, even though the fine was $3,000.

But the police officer didn't show up for the trial, Joyce said, adding that that would normally be the end of the case.

But when he approached the prosecutor about a dismissal, the man told him he would see what he could do. Instead, Joyce said, the prosecutor spent the rest of the morning tracking down the officer.

Joyce said he won the case anyway, but he said that instead of going after the real bad guys, the prosecutor had sought to charge a man who had taken his employer's word and who couldn't afford such a fine.

At present, in the State's Attorney's Office, Joyce said, "There is not a lot of sympathy for the working man."

He would like to be state's attorney to change that attitude, Joyce said. Unlike some other candidates, he feels the $100,350-a-year salary is more than adequate, so much so that he would contribute some of it to building and running a Web site that would post the pictures and "street names" of convicted drug dealers.

Asked if that might not create additional legal problems if those posted on the site had committed no crimes, Joyce said he would be glad to listen to any complaints.

"If they're here without any visible means of support, they probably don't want to draw that much attention to themselves," he said.

Joyce said he would also use the Internet to alert people to the scams being used to defraud the elderly and others.

Often, aged parents discount what their children tell them, but if there was a scam alert that children could print out and show them, it would help, he said.

He said he would also visit those neighborhoods where crime is a problem, so he could get to know the people, what they are facing and try to win their trust.

Asked about incumbent Charles Strong Jr.'s proposals for a mediation service and a juvenile drug court, Joyce was blunt.

"If I'd had the job for two years, I'd talk about what I'd done, instead of what I'm going to do. The drug court is long overdue," he said, adding that Greg Bannon, another state's attorney candidate, was correct in saying that there should be an adult drug court, too.

If Joyce is elected, he would be in the position of supervising his former wife, Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion.

Two years ago, prosecutors dropped a charge that Joyce had tried to assault a Hagerstown police officer who he claimed was involved with Cirincion.

Joyce said that's in the past and the couple now communicates well in regard to their two children. But Joyce acknowledged that it could be an awkward situation.

"I know that my ex-wife enjoys working there and I suspect she would enjoy working somewhere else if I'm elected," he said.

He said he anticipated he could work with most of the present staff.

"I don't want everyone to thjink their job is in danger," he said.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail. Join him for an online chat with Jerry Joyce on Tuesday, Aug. 22 at 1 p.m. At that time, you may partcipate by going to and clicking on "chat." Or you may e-mail questions in advance to

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