Online chat with Jerry Joyce

September 10, 2006

Editor's note: On Wednesday, Sept. 6, The Herald-Mail did an online chat with Jerry Joyce, a Hagerstown attorney and candidate for Washington County State's Attorney. What follows is an edited transcript of that chat.

Our next chat will be on Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 1 p.m., when our guest will be JoEtta Palkovitz-Brown, assistant superintendent for elementary education. She will chat on the effect the federal No Child Left Behind act has had on the local school system.

Questions or comments can be submitted by going to at 1 p.m. on that day and clicking on "chat," or by sending an e-mail to:

Martha: You have previously been a Republican. Can you please explain your switch to the Democratic party? Was your switch just an easy way to gain the party's nomination without having to run in a primary, as your opponents must?


Jerry Joyce: My switch to the Democratic Party was in part in anticipation of running for state's attorney. However, I had considered that switch for some time due to my disaffection with the current Republican regime in Maryland.

Many things that should have been addressed were seemingly ignored, such as the mess in the juvenile justice system.

I felt that a conservative Democrat could have more clout than a Republican in Maryland. I am a life member of the National Rifle Association and I was led to believe that the current governor would remedy some of the mischief done by the Glendening administration. But promises made in that regard were forgotten.

Finally, I have a great respect for many prominent Democrats in this county, such as Dennis Weaver, clerk of courts; John Bloyer, register of wills and Douglas Mullendore, the candidate for sheriff.

I am proud to be in their company.

Allison: Mr. Joyce, I am a longtime resident of Washington County. Compared to the other candidates, you are a new resident of the county. Doesn't your relatively short time here hamper your ability to represent local interests?

Joyce: I came to work here in 1990 for Ken Long as an assistant state's attorney. At that time, I was no stranger to Washington County. I used to spend a lot of time here, as well as time in Allegany and Garrett counties.

I am a lifelong Maryland resident and I believe that the problems and circumstances in Washington County are not much different from other areas of the state in which I've lived.

As a prospective state's attorney, my interest would be representing this county's citizens as their attorney in criminal court.

I have every allegiance to them as fellow Maryland residents and I don't believe a prosecutor has so much an obligation to represent "local interests" as to seek justice.

Sheri: Your former wife, Gina Cirincion, is a senior prosecutor in Washington County - one of the most experienced there. You told The Herald-Mail (in Mr. Maginnis' recent profile of you) that you "suspect" that Ms. Cirincion "would enjoy working somewhere else if (you were) elected" state's attorney.

How can you justify this de facto firing of such a successful advocate for victims and children?

Joyce: Ms. Cirincion made it clear to a mutual friend that she would not continue working in that office if I were elected. Accordingly, I responded that I suspected that she would enjoy working elsewhere if I were elected.

If she has changed her mind since sharing her views with our friend, I would be interested to hear it. There are a great number of highly competent criminal trial attorneys who would be happy to work in a state's attorney's office that valued their skills and gave them the encouragement they deserve.

Marie: Do you feel your experience as a criminal investigator can help you as a criminal prosecutor?

Joyce: Most prosecutors have little or no experience in criminal investigation. Accordingly, they don't have the best understanding of how the work product presented to them by the police is achieved.

Early in my career as a prosecutor, I discovered that it was helpful to review a police report, sometimes go to the crime scene and decide how I would have either investigated the case or prepared a report.

For example, I had a child-abuse case involving a little girl who was molested at a local elementary school many years ago.

After reviewing the case, I asked the state police investigator to return to the scene with me and photograph portions of the school relevant to the alleged criminal activity.

At trial, the defendant decided to testify and was confounded by the presence of those photographs that contradicted claims he had made on the stand. He was convicted.

I don't second-guess the police, but I do believe I am more able than other attorneys to appreciate and assist the police in the successful production of a criminal investigation.

Moderator: You have had about 10 years as a prosecutor, but incumbent Charles Strong Jr. has more than 20 years of prosecutorial experience. What is it about your ability that trumps his experience?

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