Invested: New District Legal professional Jesse Wilson talks about his strategy to the workplace, and position in the neighborhood

New Nevada County’s District Attorney Jesse Wilson says he is determined to fight for the victims in that community.
Photo: Elias Funez

For Jesse Wilson, law enforcement is not simply an impersonal, bureaucratic service performed on behalf of the state.

Prosecutors, he said, have a duty and a moral obligation to protect crime victims, and as Nevada County’s new district attorney, he wants to make it clear that his primary goal is to fight for the victims in that community .

“My ultimate goal is to protect the public and hold those who jeopardize that goal accountable … I am someone who approaches this position from a very victim-centered approach, which I think is the right way to get law enforcement.” consider. ”Wilson said in his first sit-down interview with The Union.

Wilson stated that his victim-centered approach to the district attorney role was heavily influenced by his previous position as a prosecutor in El Dorado County, where he worked for four years as a prosecutor for a special unit for victims. While on that role, Wilson prosecuted numerous sexual misconduct offenses involving children, saying he had witnessed firsthand the life-changing impact of such crimes on the victims, their families and the wider community.

“I’ve had quite a bit of contact with the victims of these crimes, including children, as well as their families, and that has given me a perspective that partially translates into this position,” he said.

Wilson said the experience gave him a better connection and a better sense of the human element of the cases, something that made him uniquely both as a prosecutor and as a person. It is this developed sense of empathy towards crime victims that Wilson said he wants to continue as a district attorney.

“I don’t see the impact crimes have on the victim, and not just the victim, but the impact outside of them … that victim is often lifelong traumatized, but his family is affected too.”


New Nevada County District Attorney Jesse Wilson is no stranger to Nevada County having previously served under Cliff Newell’s administration.
Photo: Elias Funez

Prior to taking office earlier this month, Wilson had previously publicly criticized what he and other local lawyers had called an unacceptably low conviction rate from former District Attorney Cliff Newell’s office.

Wilson acknowledged that he would like to improve the office’s win rate in the courtroom, but stressed that his underlying goal as a district attorney is not to achieve a higher conviction rate, but rather to bring about justice for victims. Such a metric can be useful in assessing a prosecutor’s performance, but it shouldn’t be misunderstood as a goal in itself, he added.

“With the conviction rate, that metric is simply a symptom of underlying problems … if there are underlying problems, it will come out on such a measurable scale,” said Wilson.

“It is not just a question of condemnation that is not always fair. Justice, the correct handling of cases … that is the top priority. “

Wilson’s comments differed somewhat from previous statements by Newell, who repeatedly stated that he did not view the conviction rate as a legitimate means of assessing the performance of his office.

In an effort to improve the conviction rate, Wilson said his office will focus on making sure prosecutors have confidence that they have abundantly solid evidence to reach a conviction before cases are brought forward.

“It is best to make sure that we are filing and handling cases with the necessary evidence required to be convicted,” said Wilson. “Once we’ve done this and have that approach and we’re working as a unified bureau to identify what specific cases we want to prosecute just to make sure the necessary evidence is in place, those metrics, like conviction rates, are taken into account. “Take care of yourself.”

Wilson said another key focus for the prosecutor, which he noted is one of the smaller offices in the state, will be to take an “all hands-on-deck” approach – making sure everyone Attorney, regardless of seniority, is in the courtroom handling cases.

“I think it best serves the public when we have everything on deck from the bottom assistant prosecutor to the senior assistant prosecutor to my position, which means that every position, every attorney in this office will be in court, will process cases. “

Such an approach will ensure that the workload of his prosecutors is fairly distributed and will give his office the resources necessary to handle as many cases as carefully as possible, Wilson said.

Wilson also expressed support for prioritizing pre-trial diversion programs in the county, claiming that such programs are a significant addition to the criminal justice system.

“I think strengthening existing diversion programs is very important in today’s law enforcement era, and even implementing new diversion programs would be a goal of this office,” he said.

Wilson added that statistical evidence suggests that the pre-trial distraction broadly reduces the rate of recidivism among repeat offenders.

“Enhancing pre-trial distraction is important … not just to distract people from the criminal justice system, but because there is evidence that it can be more effective in stopping repeat offenders and ending relapses. ”


Key to his success in the office, Wilson stressed, will be his ability to maintain close collaborative relationships with the office’s law enforcement partners such as the Grass Valley Police Department and the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

“My approach to law enforcement will be to keep lines of communication open – proactively contacting these departments and letting them know that I am available, that our assistant prosecutors are available, and that our office is available to them,” he said.

Wilson also said that as a prospective district attorney, it is vitally important for him to have expectations about the type of support his office will expect from these law enforcement agencies, while striving to meet those authorities’ expectations on his part.

“It’s really important to communicate to these agencies what we expect and for them to communicate what they expect … this kind of specific communication needs to be happening on a regular basis.”

Perhaps equally important to Wilson will be the restoration of regular professional communication between the District Attorney’s Office and the District Defense Chamber – a relationship Newell and former Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh previously recognized has been controversial for several years.

Before leaving office, Walsh noted Wilson’s reputation with many defense lawyers in the county and said he hoped Wilson could use this good relationship to reestablish a collaborative partnership between the two companies.

Wilson said improving communication with the bar association, which he believes is essential to trustworthy communication in the courtroom, will be a priority for him during his tenure.

“I really believe in having a good relationship with the bar with these basic blocks like transparency and trust … to facilitate the administration of justice,” he said, noting that this hinders effective and fair settlement of cases when prosecutors and defense lawyers are so hostile that they stop all communication.

“When things get worse to the point where there is no open communication, it disrupts the resolution of cases and hinders objective decision-making.”


With Nevada County’s residents pursuing the status of several notable trials that year, including the Sean Bryant and Michael McCauley murders and the expected trial of six co-defendants in the alleged murder of Shanta Olsen, Wilson said the community could count on it despite the Changes in administration with the departure of Newell and Walsh will not change the degree of care with which these cases are being followed.

The district attorney firmly denied any notion that his office’s readiness to bring these high profile cases to court would be delayed, adding that he is taking on some of these cases himself, including the Bryant / McCauley murder trial.

“We will be ready to go to court on all of these important cases … we will be ready to effectively prosecute these crimes and bring justice to the victims of these families, and I plan to try some of these cases myself in the courtroom. Said Wilson.

“We have very talented detective teams working on these cases, we have talented prosecutors and investigators in this office … it’s a team effort and people put a lot of time and energy into this investigation.”

On a personal level, Wilson reflected that he does not see the office of prosecutor solely as a professional activity for himself, but also sees his role in the community as a personal investment for himself and his family. Wilson, who is married with three children, said his family’s move to Nevada County and living in the community has given him a new sense of obligation to see the district attorney’s office successfully make the county a safer and more peaceful one Place makes.

“As a person who not only has a job in this district, but also wants to become a member of this community … I had to find an apartment here, my family has moved, I have enrolled my children in school, I have an interest in them Community advances … I don’t just come here, work and then go – I invest … in improving this community, “said Wilson.

Stephen Wyer is a writer for The Union. He can be reached at

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