When Republican Michael Nerheim was elected Lake County state's attorney in 2012, he faced the unenviable task of erasing a stain of wrongful convictions from the previous administration. He responded by creating volunteer and in-house review panels that have identified other problem cases and led to exonerations. He also implemented protocols, including for interrogations, to help prevent new cases from occurring.
Nerheim, 43, of Gurnee, says there's more work to be done, but his office is rebuilding trust. Diversion, treatment and training programs underscore the changes taking place, he said.
Democratic challenger, Matthew Stanton, 56, of Gurnee, says a "culture of conviction" still exists, and Nerheim hasn't done enough to eliminate it. Stanton, a private attorney and law professor seeking his first elected office, said new leadership and a fresh perspective are needed. He said he's the "outsider" who can do that through staff restructuring and training and new protocols.
His call for vigilance is noteworthy, but Nerheim has instituted safeguards and improvements that are getting results. He's also a key player in the countywide effort to combat the heroin/opioid epidemic, and he's working to build dialogue in minority communities. The office has rebounded under Nerheim and he deserves another term. He gets our endorsement.