ROCKY HILL -- In just two weeks, the state’s longest serving chief prosecutor will call it a career. Kevin Kane’s job was posted Wednesday. Deputy State’s Attorney John Russotto will take his place until the Criminal Justice Commission which is appointee by the Governor chooses a replacement to finish Kane’s 5 year term, which ends in 2021. Fox61 Reporter Matt Caron sat down with Kane for a one-on-one interview.
MATT: “Kevin, you are retiring. Tell me why now?”
KEVIN: “Why now, well I think I’ve been around long enough. Long enough to convict killers, monsters and corrupt politicians.
Kane didn’t want to talk about specific cases, but said one of his most trying times came a year into the top job. The 2007 Cheshire home invasion conviction of Stephen Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky.
MATT: “Do you think Connecticut should have the death penalty?”
KEVIN: “Personally, I’m not in favor of the death penalty. I wasn’t then. I took an oath to the public and the legislature. The public speaks through the legislature. They passed a law and I thought if that case doesn’t deserve the death penalty nobody does.”
On the issue of trust within the justice system, Kane told FOX61 he’s tried to balance the letter of the law with a common sense human approach. He’s been working hard to instill trust in the system but realizes there’s a long way to go.
MATT: “What would you say to people who don’t have trust in the criminal justice system?”
KEVIN: “If anybody sits in court and watches trial, and watches Juries as they deliberate. Watch them as they come out the jury room door and watch the concern on their face and the tears in their eyes. And sometimes you can read the anguish they’ve gone through to come to a decision they believe is right and correct. The public has got to understand that before it decides we can’t trust the system.” At 76 years old, and after a 47 year career, Kevin Kane says he’s learned something about trust. That mistrust is magnified in the wake of recent police involved shootings like in Hamden and Wethersfield. Kane says he understands the public demand for answers.
MATT: “The states prosecutorial system. Do you think it’s sufficiently transparent?”
KEVIN: “I think now we’re learning that we’ve got to make more of an effort up front to look at these cases and say okay what can we release and what can we not release? The next step is some things have to be explained at the time of release so the public can put it into context when we see it.”
MATT: “Kevin in your view how do we handle racial bias in the justice system?”
KEVIN: “Just talking about race is a hard discussion to have. We are beginning to learn how to have those discussions. The legislature has to think when it passes laws, how will this impact different elements of the community.”
MATT: “Let’s talk about the juvenile justice system. What is the most important thing that needs to be done to fix that?” KEVIN: We’ve had a lot of good fixes. Raise the age to include 17 and 18 year old’s in the juvenile court was a very good idea. It’s obvious that young people do things foolishly that hopefully they won’t do again.”
MATT: “I want to ask you about a couple key issues within the criminal justice and the judicial system one of them being the opioid crisis in Connecticut and throughout much of the country. Is that a criminal issue or is that an addiction issue?
KEVIN: “I do think we should devote more effort to enforcing the laws prohibiting the saw of narcotics and be able to target the people who were profiting greatly. Not the street level dealers but the people a couple levels above them. That’s a criminal matter. And that’s a criminal matter that I think requires more attention than it’s getting right now.”
Kane has worked to bring criminal justice into the 21st century. He’s advocated for recorded police interrogations and body cameras, but he says the courts lag behind and called on the legislature to back advancements in technology with money and manpower. “If you go around to any of our Part A courts you are going to see inspectors and prosecutors sitting in their offices with earphones looking at these interrogations. And all we’ve heard over the last 8 years is arrests are down, crime is down, you don’t need any more help. Well we do need help.”
Kane says he’s done the best he could and begins the next chapter hoping that was good enough. “I hope I haven’t wrongfully convicted anybody. I’ve never prayed for a guilty verdict. I have prayed for the right verdict.”
Kane has been Chief States Attorney since 2006. An office that was created in 1974 to bring county attorneys under a central structure.
MATT: “What advice would you give to whoever takes your place?
KEVIN: “I hope the person who succeeds me is better than I’ve ever been at conveying information to the public and to the legislature about the help and resources that we really need to do our job which is to provide true justice to the public of the state of Connecticut.”