GUILT or innocence is up to the jury in the Miles K. Karson Jr. trial.

Justice will come from the jurors who will hear the evidence and decide what, if any, consequences there should be for Mercer County’s district attorney.

So far, only the prosecution has presented its case – and the testimony has been, in a word, shocking.

Only one side has been heard so far. The defense will answer the charges soon.

Minds should remain open until then.

It is up to the jurors and the judge to determine a fair and just result.

But we are fast-forwarding a bit – no matter which way the die is cast.

Karson’s attorney has already said that his client is guilty of stupidity, but not ill-intent or criminal activity.

The jurors will decide whether or not that is true.

But one has to wonder what will happen if Karson is allowed to return to the district attorney’s office.

We don’t think he should.

To be a community’s top law enforcement officer, you don’t have to be perfect.

But you have to have unimpeachable integrity, and even the suggestion that you don’t, or that your judgment was warped by some personal weakness or interest, well that is enough to render you ineffectual.

And what we have heard so far makes us worried.

No one truly believes that our justice system is always completely blind. Guilty people go free, and innocent people end up spending time in prison.

But those we charge with determining guilt or innocence and to advocate for punishment for others, they must meet a higher standard, face more intense scrutiny.

They cannot afford to have repeated mistakes, lapses or questionable decisions. They just can’t.

Although there is much to question about Karson’s handling of this particular situation, there is good to acknowledge, too.

He has been tough on crime and got justice moving in Mercer County again.

So he probably knows what the right thing to do is here.

And if he makes that choice, or it is made for him, this county will have a void in one of its most important offices.

It will be critical that we do not step backwards.

This is not a moment for partisanship or opportunism.

It is about justice.

The district attorney, whomever it is, must let those who deal drugs, murder, rape, rob or otherwise endanger this community’s citizens know that there will be consequences if they choose to commit their crimes in this county.

Cases should move swiftly, and tough stands need to be taken. Crimes against children should be dealt with from a position of strength, not plea bargained.

And we all know that has not always been the case.

We need to make sure the progress that has been made continues.

And that means keeping a close eye on whomever is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the law or carrying out justice.

There are already names being bandied about to challenge for the district attorney’s seat.

Anyone who throws his or her hat in the ring – or the incumbent – should face that high standard, and real scrutiny.

A name is not enough. To be this community’s highest law enforcement officer, you have to understand the responsibility and be prepared to live up to the standard.

That is how justice stays as blind and as just as possible.

And it is a real question to consider as this case continues, and when it is over.