Former state's attorney named first recipient of award bearing his name

Retired judge is honored for victim-witness program

April 26, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

Warren B. Duckett Jr. has a long and impressive resume, including being a county councilman and a judge. But he said his role as Anne Arundel County state's attorney was his "whole life."

"It's the best of everything," Duckett said yesterday. "It fulfills everything I need - a little politics, a little law."

So it's only fitting that the office name an annual award for Duckett - who had his judgeship term cut short six years ago by multiple sclerosis - and honor him yesterday as its first recipient, recognizing him as the founding father of Victim-Witness Services program in the county.

In the Victims' Rights Week awards ceremony, State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said the Warren B. Duckett Jr. Commitment to Justice Award was established to honor an individual or group providing services to the criminal and juvenile justice systems as a whole.

Duckett said he had no idea he would be honored with the award.

"It's just a fulfillment of everything in my life," he said, appearing at the ceremony in a wheelchair. "I'm awe-struck."

Weathersbee said that when he and Duckett started as prosecutors, a victim-witnesses services program didn't exist. The courts looked at witnesses as a means to win cases, and victims were inadvertently left out of the process.

"We weren't able to explain to [victims] what it was they happened to be dong in this alien world," he said.

Now, the county has one of the biggest victim-witness services programs in the state. The program includes assigning a victim advocate to each case, providing up-to-date case information and explaining legal terminology and court procedures."[Duckett] continued to address more programs," said Maureen Gillmer, director of the county's Victim-Witness Services. "He was a visionary."

Duckett began his political career when he was elected to the County Council in 1970. He was named state's attorney in 1973 and held the office for 15 years. Appointed to the Circuit Court in 1988, he retired in October 1995 at mid-term.

Duckett said he misses his old job as prosecutor, particularly "having all the people around."

"I've loved the office of the state's attorney more than anything else in my life," he said.

Also honored at the ceremony were Katherine McDonald, 16, of Severna Park, Deputy Sheriff Fred Shiflett and Verizon Wireless, all for helping create a program to donate telephones that will be given to domestic violence victims to call the police.

Kasey Weygant, 12, was recognized for bringing to light that a 6-year-old girl she knew might have been sexually abused, and she testified at the trial.

County fire Capt. Michael Greenhawk and firefighters Donald Bates and David Ross were recognized for attempting to save a 12-year-old girl from a 1998 house fire in Cape St. Claire, suffering serious burns in the process. Despite their efforts, the girl died. But the firefighters said they don't let the disappointment of that event affect how they approach their jobs.

"You've just got to have it in your mind that you do what you've got to do," Greenhawk said, "even though there's not always a positive outcome."

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