Prosecuting Criminals: Inside the Salt Lake County DA’s Office

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Walking around the 5th floor of the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, it looks like the typical corporate building until you reach District Attorney Sim Gill’s workspace. From the old courthouse furniture, which Gill says was about to get thrown out anyway, to a handwritten note on a toilet seat, each piece has a story, reminding Gill of what his mission is. 

“You’re not always going to win, but you don’t give up trying,” said Gill. 

From trying to get justice to trying to change the system or maybe just trying to manage around 300 people between the DA and city prosecutor’s office, Gill says he wears a lot of hats. 

“It’s salary issues, it’s hiring, it’s firing, it’s discipline,” said Gill. 

The job also includes being council for Salt Lake County, which is essentially a $1.4 billion corporation, during a pandemic.

“We played that role simultaneously in keeping operations going as well as being the lead prosecutor for serious crime in Salt Lake County,” said Gill. 

Gill also oversees the Victim Support Services Division, the largest division in the office. Associate Division Director for Victim Support Services Division Lorianne Szendre says her division’s job is to do everything possible to restore a victim’s well-being. The division brings together several support programs to provide a victim-centered approach to the legal process. 

“It’s important to have someone reach out to them and provide support, but also help walk them through those steps,” said Szendre. 

Part of serving victims is keeping them in the loop on their case, which Gill says can be difficult at times. 

“This is a process that causes real harm, real victims, real suffering and it can be a process that can take a period of time,” said Gill. 

It takes time to collect evidence and review it, but there are times when no time can give the results someone wants. 

“We know we have a victim and we don’t have the evidence in the way that we need to be able to have a successful prosecution. It doesn’t mean that the harm didn’t happen or the injury didn’t happen and that their pain isn’t real. It’s just we don’t have the elements. We don’t have the law. We don’t have the evidence to be able to prove that,” said Gill. 

Another frustration Gill hears from victims involves the punishment itself, especially when the convicted person goes on to commit more severe, violent crimes. 

“You can’t jail every person who may commit a crime. You need to separate from those who are a risk to our community to those that may be making mistakes or bad choices,” said Gill. 

Gill says all his team can do is review the evidence and present it in court. 

“Sometimes we get what we ask, sometimes we don’t get what we ask,” said Gill. 

When things don’t go right, Gill says he is here to listen. Anyone can schedule a meeting with Gill on Friday afternoons. It’s something Gill has been doing for nearly 20 years. 

“If they want to complain, if they want to yell at me and tell me what a terrible job I’m doing, or are angry at me, that is their right to share that. And it’s my privilege to listen,” said Gill. 

Gill says the conversations he has with the people he serves stays with him, including a conversation he had with a single mother, whose son was shot and killed. Gill asked the mother how long the person who killed her son should spend in prison. She told Gill, 8 years. He asked her why eight years.

The mother told Gill, “He has a mother too… I’ve lost my son. I don’t want her to lose her son.”

Gill says he will never forget the compassion and kindness of that woman. 

“Justice is being seen, having a voice and then fighting for it,” said Gill.

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