Special Reports

âœWhatâ™s a district attorney?â

            Most of my friends and neighbors know that I am interested in the mysterious disappearance of Ray Gricar, Centre County’s former District Attorney.  I think they know I do this blog as well.  Believe it or not, the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Gricar is not a hot topic on the streets of Philadelphia.  I do occasionally talk about it.

            Last year, I talked about, obliquely, with my next door neighbor and friend’s grandson, that I’ll call "C."

C turned five last year.  His grandmother, who is only slightly older than I, describes him as “having so much energy.”  When he comes to visit he, he will knock on my door and we will play catch, until he tires me out.  I don’t know who will be coaching in 13 years or so (JoePa will be 96), but I have a great recruit for you.

            C is very bright and very well brought up.  His parents have seen to it that he has good church upbringing.  He likes to go to church.  He is a very good little boy and very well behaved.  I think most of you would be very happy if, in a few years, you daughter would bring home someone like him.  C’s is also very bright, and very bright people ask questions.

            Last year, C told about a vacation he went on with his parents.  He told me about staying them in a hotel.  I told him about my trip, the one that included the trip to Danville and Lewisburg (some of “vacation photos” from Lewisburg are linked at the right).   I said, “And when I was there, I met a district attorney.”

            C got a puzzled look on his face and asked, “What’s a district attorney?”

            I know the answer to the question, but how to explain the answer to a five year a five year old is one I’ve never faced.  The district attorney represents the state, the adversarial system of American jurisprudence; in Pennsylvania, he (or she) is elected on the county level.  He presents the arguments in court that someone, a defendant, violated some criminal law.  His role is to get to the truth, which usually means trying getting a conviction, but within something called due process, meaning, broadly, within the rules set by the Constitutions of the United States and Pennsylvania, as interpreted by the courts, statute, and by common law.  Generally, sort of.  Okay, I can’t explain it in detail, in five minutes.  It amazes me how many people on the Internet really didn’t understand all the system, even generally.  So how did explain it to a bright five year old, but still a five year old? 

            Well, I said, “He sends bad people to jail.”

            C’s got very wide, and didn’t say anything for about five minutes.  Then he blurted out, “But I’m not that bad!”

            Both his grandmother and I laughed, and I said that it was for really bad people, and the C asked me, “Mr. J. J. [and everyone in my neighborhood calls me “J. J.”], were you afraid, did you pray?”

            I said, no, that I was meeting with Mr. Buehner because I was trying to help him find his friend, who is missing.

            Then C said something that surprised me.  He said, “I’d go to them and tell the ‘Let Mr. J. J. out.  He’s a nice man.’”

            I couldn’t ask for better character reference.

 

E-mail J. J. in Phila at scorg@live.com

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