Isherwood discusses DA’s public-safety role
By Robert Cloud
Assistant District Attorney Veronica Isherwood says the community’s safety depends on having an experienced prosecutor.
The Republican candidate for Waupaca County district attorney, Isherwood is running against Robert Forseth in the general election.
“I have been an assistant district attorney for 15 years, the last two in Waupaca County,” Isherwood said.
“Right now, my case load includes 331 open cases, several homicide cases, several sexual assault cases and a number of very serious felonies,” Isherwood told the Waupaca County Post. “I would not have had the expertise to prosecute those cases alone even after four to five years on the job.”
Prior to coming to Waupaca County, Isherwood worked as a prosecutor in Portage County for 13 years.
“In Portage County, the district attorney always handled the homicide cases and one of the assistant DAs would work the case with him,” Isherwood said. “It wouldn’t be safe for a community to have somebody try to prosecute a serious case if they are not trained to handle it appropriately and effectively.”
In an office as small as Waupaca County’s, Isherwood said the district attorney must also be able to work as a prosecutor and handle a full caseload.
“It’s definitely not a 40-hour a week job,” Isherwood said, noting she often goes to the office at 7 a.m. and does not leave until 7 p.m. She is also called out to crime scenes.
Working on a homicide
At approximately 3 a.m. on April 11, Isherwood was notified that a man’s body had been found in a ditch on Airport Road in Clintonville. She immediately went to the command center at the scene of the crime.
“I spent the entire day in the field,” Isherwood said. “I believe in working very closely with law enforcement because we’re a team solving the case.”
Isherwood said she takes an iPad with her so she can look up statutes if investigators have legal questions and have necessary forms ready for search warrants.
“I have gone to the scenes of serious crimes and attended autopsies,” Isherwood said. “You must know the case inside and out because that’s how to have a successful prosecution.”
On April 12, Isherwood filed first-degree homicide and robbery charges against Zachary T. Hohn, 16, Tigerton, and Adam J. Ozuna, 24, Bear Creek.
“Once you have the evidence, charging the case out and putting the defendant on bond is the only way to protect the community from the defendant,” Isherwood said. “That’s why we’re here – to protect the community.”
Isherwood noted that sometimes, it takes time to collect evidence and charges cannot be filed immediately. However, if there is enough evidence for finding probable cause, charges should be filed immediately because more evidence can come in as law enforcement continues to investigate the case.
Protecting the community
Since coming to Waupaca County, Isherwood has made a practice of requesting cash bonds rather than signature bonds for serious felony offenses.
“People who are accused of certain crimes should not be allowed on the street,” Isherwood said. “If they are back on the street they should have something to lose.”
Isherwood said cash bonds help protect the community and provide defendants an incentive to show up for court dates and follow the conditions set by the judge.
Cash bonds also ensure that defendants pay restitution and court costs after they are convicted, Isherwood said.
Isherwood said her goal in becoming a lawyer has always been to protect people.
“I signed up for the LSAT exam the same week as the Oklahoma City bombings,” Isherwood said. “I saw on TV that most of the people investigating that bombing were FBI agents and attorneys. I signed up to go to law school.”
Public safety nonpartisan
Isherwood, who currently lives just over the line in Portage County, said her family is in the process of finding a home in Waupaca County.
“Coming from outside has its advantages. I never have to prosecute a high school buddy,” Isherwood said. “It also avoids a lot of conflicts of interest. The only other business my family is involved in is farming.”
In 2012, Isherwood ran for Portage County district attorney as a Democrat. She is now running as a Republican.
“I’ve always been a Republican,” Isherwood said. “In Portage County, the people who advised me said you cannot win as a Republican in Portage County. I ran as a Democrat, but I did not join the Democratic Party.”
Isherwood said she does not believe a district attorney should be a partisan position.
“There is not a case that comes across my desk where being a Democrat or a Republican determines whether a defendant will be charged,” Isherwood said.
Prior to going to law school, Isherwood worked as the head of the Barron County Child Support Agency and as a municipal auditor.
“I’m very familiar with the budgeting and administrative aspects of this office,” Isherwood said.
In a small notebook, Isherwood has some inspirational words a district attorney sent to prosecutors throughout the state when he retired:
“Always look for the good in people. Leave defendants with hope. Never apologize for doing your job. Use your head. Follow your heart.”
Isherwood said leaving a defendant with hope is an important component to public safety.
“Except for homicides, the defendants are not going to be locked up forever,” Isherwood said. “So they can come back from prison trying to start over and having a good life or they can come back angry and vengeful. Which would you rather have in your community?”