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Underfunded Criminal Justice System Cited In Release Of Accused Murderer

Rachael McDonald

Lane County's District Attorney says lack of law enforcement capacity contributed the release of a man accused of killing two people over the last few weeks.  

Eugene Police arrested Ricardo Cheney on drug and firearms charges on March 6th.  The DA's office said it chose not to file charges because the crime involved no violence or threat of violence and fell below the current local threshold for prosecution.

Lane County DA Alex Gardner says hundreds of felony-level crimes go un-prosecuted every year.  He says even though voters raised taxes to fund more jail beds, the county still doesn't have the budget in other areas to keep up.

Gardner: "The system sort of has to rise as a system.  You can't just throw more DA's at it or more patrol guys or a little more drug capacity, drug treatment capacity… It has to function as a system.  It's taken 35 years to get into this hole.  It's going to take some time to get out.  And frankly it's going to take community commitment to get out of it."

After being set free, Chaney allegedly killed retired University of Oregon professor George Wasson, setting his house on fire.  Then he went to California where he is accused of shooting and killing a Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy.  Cheney subsequently died in a shootout with police.


Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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