Should Mary Lacy have spent over $10,000 to bring John Mark Karr back from Thailand? To me, this decision was a no-brainer? It was money well spent. The intelligence she was getting from investigators on the ground was that Karr had intimate knowledge of the facts of the case, the man publicly "confessed" to the crime, he made all kinds of quasi-admissions to a college professor, had the kind of background that suggested he could have committed the crime, he was on the run from a warrant in California, and she had supposedly had information that he was grooming Thai children for illicit sex (to me, protecting any child, whether that child be Thai, Cambodian, Laotian, or an American, justified the expense). From the get-go, she was very cautious in her public comments about Karr's guilt, careful not to prejudice his right to a fair trial. She tried to dampen the public's expectation and excitement that the crime was solved. She got a good DNA sample from him, ran the tests, determined that the information that Karr claimed to have came from publicly available sources, could not determine if he was in Boulder, and so she dropped the charges. Karr remains in custody, will have to face justice in California, his DNA profile will be run against state and local databases (to see if he has harmed any other children) and may serve to deter him from committing future acts in the future.
Of course, my admiration for Ms. Lacy's performance here, would be diminished somewhat if I learned that she leaked the arrest of Karr and was responsible for the torrent of media coverage that ensued. But until that is proven, I think she did what any responsible prosecutor should have done. Can you imagine if word got out that she didn't take John Mark Karr into custody? Or if Karr went on to harm other children because of her refusal to arrest him. The standard for detaining Karr was "probable cause." A judge determined that she had "probable cause" based on information in the warrant and no reasonable person could really dispute that there was probable cause here to arrest Karr.
Finally, and this is my last word on the subject -- in my false confessions work, I have seen too many cases where police officers and prosecutors do not do the kind of post-confession investigation that Ms. Lacey did here. They take the confession at face value, arrest the suspect and get convictions of the wrong person. Or they let the suspect languish in jail for months before dropping the charges. Generally, I am not an apologist for prosecutors -- but prosecutors who do their job and do it well should be commended. Remember, it was Ms. Lacey who has done more to quash speculation (and that is all that it is) that the Ramsey's were involved in their daughter's death than anyone else.