As he shuffled through numerous court files cluttering his office Thursday morning, Jerry Gorman said he has never forgotten what each one of those files represents.
In every case, there are real people who were hurt by crime and are seeking justice.
And in his 35 years as a Wyandotte County prosecutor, Gorman has always tried to deliver that.
“It’s a good feeling to see those people over the years, to feel you’ve done something to help them,” he said.
After a long career as an assistant prosecutor under Nick Tomasic and 11 years as Wyandotte County district attorney, Gorman’s last day in the office is Friday.
He was defeated last year in the Democratic primary by Mark Dupree, who will be sworn in Monday.
It was a political loss that still stings for the career prosecutor who said he never considered it a political job.
“To me, it’s always been a law enforcement job,” he said.
And Gorman has done a lot of enforcing.
He has personally tried more than 250 jury trials, including more than 45 murder trials.
Many of those murder cases began for Gorman with a page in the middle of the night summoning him to a crime scene.
It’s a grim duty that Gorman estimates he has been called to do more than 200 times.
As a lifelong Kansas City, Kan., resident, he has sometimes gone to the scene of a dead body and discovered the deceased was somebody he knew.
Last year, two of those people were Kansas City, Kan., police officers killed in the line of duty. Gorman went to both of those scenes.
“I knew both officers very well,” he said. “I’ve met with both of their families.”
On Tuesday, in one of his last courtroom appearances as district attorney, Gorman handled the guilty plea for the man he charged with killing one of those officers.
That man will die in prison.
One of the most memorable cases and infamous cases he has handled involved cannibalism.
The defendant in that case was convicted of killing four people. He ate the flesh of three of those victims.
He, too, will likely die in prison.
Though he has spent his career prosecuting criminals, Gorman wasn’t thinking about being a prosecutor when he graduated from Washburn University Law School.
He wanted to be a tax attorney.
But he found the work boring, and after listening to the interesting stories of some of his law school friends who were working as prosecutors, he applied for the job.
He still has the letter from Tomasic telling him there weren’t any openings.
But a few weeks later, he got the job.
After about three years as a prosecutor, though, Gorman decided he wanted to try his hand at something different and maybe make a little more money. He earned $14,000 a year when he was hired in 1981.
So he left and joined a small law firm, but he soon realized he had made a mistake.
“I was miserable,” he said. “I missed the trial work.”
Fortunately, when Tomasic heard Gorman wanted to come back, he gave him a call.
That was November 1984, and Gorman has been in the office ever since.
It’s a decision he has never regretted.
“I was never interested in making a lot of money as a lawyer,” he said. “If I had, I wouldn’t be here.”
As far as the future, Gorman said he isn’t ready to retire.
“I’m looking for something,” he said. “I just turned 60, and I can’t afford to retire.”
Recently, Gorman got a reminder of what has made the job so rewarding.
It was a Facebook message from the mother of a 14-year-old murder victim in a case he had prosecuted about 15 years ago.
“She just wanted to thank me, and wish me luck,” he said.