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Opinion: California DAs Are Public Prosecutors, Not Public Defenders

Chesa Boudin
San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin. Photo courtesy of his office

A Democrat like me needs to say something that many Democrats would not like to hear: The role of district attorneys in our criminal justice system is to prosecute people who commit crimes.

The overwhelming vote earlier this month to remind Prosecutor Chesa Boudin in deep blue San Francisco should serve as a wake-up call for any Democrat interested in the party’s credibility on public safety.

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I live in Los Angeles, so I have not listened in detail to all the complaints that led voters to remove Budin from the office where he was elected less than three years ago. From afar, however, it seems that some of these factors played a role in his recall:

  1. There is a reason we call DA “prosecutors”. Under California law, the the role of the prosecutor is defined as “The prosecutor “(our emphasis), whose position is to” move and act on behalf of the people all prosecutions for public offenses ”(emphasis added). This is their primary task – to prosecute those who commit crimes.

It is not to act as public defenders. we already have them. They defend those who break the law and do not have the financial means to have a lawyer, and their work is a necessary and important part of our justice system.

Nor is it going to be a welfare organization that will provide relief or excuses for criminals.

  1. The law does not specify that DAs are administrators of the entire criminal justice system, nor does it accuse them of trying to reform parties they do not like.

Can they also be involved in efforts to improve the system? Do reforms and changes need to be made? Of course. We know from our long history that the criminal justice system is far from perfect. But if the public perception of a DA is that it has highlighted criminal justice reform in relation to their primary role as prosecutors, they can and usually will face serious problems, as Boudin did.

  1. Voters are not experts in the criminal justice system, but they actually understand that they elect DA first and foremost to put the bad guys behind bars. DAs can and should do their job with a certain amount of humanity and compassion, of course, taking into account special or unusual circumstances. But those who try to have it in both ways end up in trouble.

It is like former San Francisco prosecutor Kamala Harris calling herself a “progressive prosecutor” in her presidential election. I think even many Democratic voters found this name an oxymoron, like a “kinder, kinder account collector” or a “compassionate man on vacation.” A prosecutor prosecutes, clearly and simply.

We have many other examples in California of the Democratic DA, whose reputation as their county attorney general had been tarnished by the way they handled criminal cases. Take, for example, here in Los Angeles County, Ira Reiner in the Rodney King case and the McMartin preschool scandal or Gil Garcetti in the OJ Simpson trial.

Harris and her refusal as a district attorney to sentence a San Francisco police officer to death would be a responsibility even among many Democrats nationwide if she were the Democratic nominee for president in 2020. And in Los Angeles County , prosecutor George Gascon, the former San Francisco DA and another self-proclaimed “reformer,” also faces a serious threat of recall.

If prosecutors do not aggressively and competently exercise their role as attorney general, there is no one else who can do it. The city’s lawyers are largely civil judges, defending and advising the city government.

Although attorneys general regularly refer to themselves as the “top police officers” of the state, they rarely prosecute individual street crimes. This is the job, again, of the prosecutor in each prefecture.

Well, a note to the district attorneys, especially the Democrats: First and foremost, do your daily work. If you have extra time, you can engage in criminal justice reform or other minor efforts.

Garry South is a veteran Democratic general who managed Gray Davis’ successful campaigns for governor in 1998 and 2002 and was a senior adviser in Gavin Newsom’s first election as governor in 2008-09, before Newsom left the race. He wrote this comment for CalMattersa non-profit, non-partisan media venture that explains California politics and politics.

Opinion: California DAs Are Public Prosecutors, Not Public Defenders Source link Opinion: California DAs Are Public Prosecutors, Not Public Defenders

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