Murder and mayhem are a normal part of Diana May’s life. The chief deputy district attorney is an expert in prosecuting violent crimes – and she shares that expertise with police, domestic violence advocates and the courts.
In the midst of death and brutality, May never forgets her primary motivation: justice for the victims of those offenses.
“I want them to realize they have a voice in the system, a representative in court,” she said. “My motivation is to obtain justice for those crimes. I also want to hold those who commit the crimes responsible for those crimes; I want to make sure they pay the appropriate costs.”
May knew she wanted to be a prosecutor in high school, thanks to a close family friend in Lamar who was the district attorney. She graduated from Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the University of Kansas Law School.
“It’s all I ever wanted to be,” May said. “Some people leave for private practice, after they gain trial experience. But this is where my heart is. I know there is a need for defense attorneys, but I could never do that. I want to speak for the victims.”
May began her career as a prosecutor in Lamar, and then moved to Colorado Springs, prosecuting juvenile crimes, domestic violence and sexual assault cases. District Attorney John Newsome said May’s dedication and hard work led to her steady advancement in the office.
“Diana brings seemingly endless energy and enthusiasm for her work to our office,” Newsome said in nominating May for Women of Influence. “She has been instrumental as chief deputy in the reorganization of the office and has instituted numerous training programs both within our office and to other law enforcement and community agencies.”
May created a statewide training effort which focused on strangulation crimes. She said that police, prosecutors and judges often fail to see the seriousness of the crime.
“Early on, I saw the response to these kinds of cases didn’t recognize the seriousness of the crime,” she said. “There is a very high correlation to more serious crimes, and even the police did not respond to that. They treated it just like any other assault. But the two most frequent ways to kill in a domestic violence case are by gunshot and strangulation.”
May developed a presentation that she gave throughout Colorado – to nurses, district attorneys, police officers and sheriff’s deputies.
“She is recognized statewide as an expert on strangulation and has shared her expertise on this subject with hundreds of professionals throughout the state of Colorado,” Newsome said. “Diana has always demonstrated high levels of initiative, integrity, intelligence, thoroughness and dedication.”
May’s professional life revolves around gaining justice for victims of felonies. But her personal life revolves around her infant son and her husband. Her family life provides a break from the violence she sees every day.
“I’m on week four of a homicide trial,” she said. “And on Friday, it was so wonderful to go home and just watch my son play with his balloon. I didn’t even think about the trial, I just put that away for a while.”
May has big plans for the future. After her tenure as chief deputy, she hopes to become a judge.
“It’s far in the future,” she said. “I’m pretty young to be in the position I’m in right now, so I plan to be here for a long time – 10, 15 years. Eventually, though, I see myself attempting to become a judge.”
Her dedication to her profession shows in her participation on boards and committees that deal with domestic violence and crime prevention. Teen Court is her favorite volunteer position.
“I just get a kick out of how well the kids do in Teen Court,” May said. “Most of them need very little coaching; they know how the system works. I’m there as a mentor, to give them occasional advice on how to present evidence.”
Teen Court is a juvenile crime system that allows offenders to participate in a court of their peers. The judge, attorneys and juries are all teenagers, some of whom have been in trouble in the past. Only minor juvenile cases are heard in Teen Court, and the offender must agree to abide by the court’s decision.
“They take this very seriously,” May said. “And sometimes they are much harsher than the regular system would be. They really drop the hammer, especially if the defendant has a bad attitude.”
May also participates on the advisory board for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, the El Paso County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board. She said her commitment to gaining justice for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault crimes remain strong.
“I was just promoted to deputy chief in January,” she said. “So I don’t prosecute as many cases as I used to, I supervise now. But I still am dedicated to prosecuting those crimes. My heart is still there.”