Tuesday, June 14, 2011
On the Campaign Trail
Candidates Respond to: ‘What Makes You the Best Suited, Among the Present Candidates, to Be DA?’
Today, each of the six declared candidates for the post of Los Angeles County district attorney responds to the last of eight questions posed to them.
It’s a “softball” question, permitting each contender to toot his or her horn as to why he or she is the best qualified for the job.
Nominating papers must be filed between Feb. 13 and March 9, and the primary election will be held June 5. The run-off will take place Nov. 6, 2012.
Deputy District Attorney
I am the only candidate who has been assigned to prosecute crimes in the three divisions that pose the greatest threat to our public. They include gang violence, family violence and high profile crimes. I am the only candidate who has an articulable plan to address problems that are in need of immediate attention in Los Angeles County including public corruption, chronic recidivism and school truancy. I have exercised leadership both inside and outside the office helping to make our lawyers better trial attorneys and ethical prosecutors. I have the experience leading community groups and organizations that will help this office fight the chronic problems that need our attention now.
Deputy District Attorney
My lifelong dedication to public service, supported by my education and demonstrated by my experience as a public school teacher, businessman and prosecutor make me the best suited candidate to be DA. I have the trial experience (over 110 jury trials with a 92 percent conviction rate), the administration experience and the management experience to lead this office. But most of all, I have the passion to seek justice and the fortitude necessary to face the stakeholders and tell them that if we in fact are a system of rehabilitation, then what we are currently doing in the criminal justice system, particularly at the juvenile court level, is not working. If elected, I will immediately go to Sacramento and work with the legislature on giving prosecutors the tools necessary to allow them to better prosecute real crime instead of forcing them to dedicate time and resources to process vehicle code violations.
Running for DA is not about who’s the roughest, toughest, meanest DA. It’s about who can effectively and efficiently protect our community while dealing with a tight budget and insuring that the level of performance from the office does not diminish. My education, background and experience has provided me the legal knowledge, the leadership experience and the financial know how to deal with the unique challenges facing the District Attorneys’ office during the next four years and beyond.
Deputy District Attorney
Based on my unparalleled track record of success, my management abilities and my vision of public safety, I am best qualified to lead this office into the future.
Track Record of Success
I have been battle-tested on some of the biggest stages in the country. In my nearly 17 years of experience, I have successfully tried approximately 60 felony cases, more than half of which have been murders. I have maintained a career-long conviction rate of more than 96 percent, and I have set a high bar that I encourage each of the deputies under my supervision to reach.
I have been asked by Steve Cooley to lead the prosecution in the most difficult and high profile cases this office has seen, including the murder case against music producer Phil Spector, who was the first celebrity to be convicted in Los Angeles in more than 40 years; the murder of iconic racecar driver Mickey Thompson, who was gunned down along with his wife, Trudy, at their family home in 1988; and the recent murder-for-hire of Pamela Fayed, who was stabbed to death in a Century City parking garage in 2008. My leadership in these successful prosecutions has given me unique insight into what it takes to justly win even the most challenging cases. These experiences are what the next District Attorney needs in order to lead by example and guide the office forward.
As the Assistant Head Deputy of the Major Crimes Division since 2007, I manage the most elite division in the District Attorney’s office. The Major Crimes Division is tasked with investigating and prosecuting the most difficult, complex and high profile cases in the office. As the Assistant Head Deputy, I work daily with top law enforcement officials in order to make filing decisions that often have national and even international repercussions. I previously sat on the Special Circumstances Committee, which is responsible for determining when this office will seek the death penalty—one of the weightiest decisions this office makes. I currently supervise the top trial lawyers in the office, which equips me uniquely to ensure that our performance as an office is effective, cohesive, and fair yet firm in protecting the public we serve.
Vision of Public Safety
The next District Attorney must have a vision of how to lead this office into the future. Today, we enjoy some of the lowest violent crime rates in decades, but tomorrow is a new day and we can and must do better. By concentrating on how the justice system treats probation-level offenders, we can chip away at the debilitating 70 percent recidivism rate that plagues Los Angeles. I embrace a program of swift and certain sanctions for low- to mid-level probationers. Pilot programs of this sort have resulted in a significant—and almost immediate—drop in recidivism at the probation level. Fewer probation violators translate to fewer state prisoners and lower recidivism. I will work with the probation department, the public defender’s office, and the judiciary in order to bring about the sort of programmatic change at the ground level that Los Angeles needs in order to keep our streets and neighborhoods safe.
DANETTE E. MEYERS
Deputy District Attorney
I am the only candidate committed to real change in the office. Each of the other candidates has said that they would withdraw from the race if the current District Attorney decides to run. This indicates that they intend to continue with the values and policies of Mr. Cooley. I am the only candidate who has publically stated that I will run regardless of whether Steve Cooley decides to enter the race. My decision is based entirely upon my commitment to implementing real change within the office and throughout Los Angeles County.
I have been a resident of Los Angeles for 50 years. During a quarter-century of service as a Deputy District Attorney, I have prosecuted six death penalty cases and handled hundreds of serious and violent felonies. I supervised the Bellflower and Florence/Firestone Area Offices. I was selected to join the Career Criminal and Crimes Against Peace Officers Units. As a member of the Special Trials Division of the Van Nuys Branch Office, I was one of the first prosecutors to convict a serial rapist using DNA evidence. I have prosecuted many high profile cases including the “Rolex” and “Follow-Home” robbery cases, the Bernard Nelson death penalty case and the Lindsay Lohan theft and driving under the influence matters. I have been named Prosecutor of the Year twice and in 2008 named among California’s top 100 lawyers by the Daily Journal. I have received the Charles English Spirit Award by the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Delegation to the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations (CDCBA). I was awarded the CLEO Legacy Diversity Award and in 2009, received the Jim Pfeiffer Award from the CDCBA. I successfully chaired the first Los Angeles County Bar Association Diversity Summit and in 2008 became the President of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
I have served on several search committees, was a member of the Webster Commission, the Board of Directors of the Association of the Deputy District Attorneys, the Executive Committee and Resolution Committee of the Conference of Delegates and chaired both the Criminal Justice Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and Delegation to the Conference of Delegates to the State Bar of California.
I have lectured for the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the Women Lawyers’ Association of Los Angeles and the Black Prosecutors Association. In 2009, I delivered the Commencement Address for the graduating class at the University of West Los Angeles School of Law. Based upon the aforementioned, I believe I have the experience and commitment to both the office and the criminal justice system to bring new policies and procedures to an office that is in need of reform. Clearly, I am uniquely qualified to lead the nation’s largest local prosecutorial office.
Deputy District Attorney
I am honored to be in a field of career Deputy District Attorneys who have all excelled as trial lawyers. After 13 years in the office, and a nearly perfect jury trial conviction record, with the exception of two hung juries and several lost counts, I was recruited as both an Assistant Head Deputy and as a trial attorney in the Crimes Against Peace Officers Section or CAPOS. I chose CAPOS where I prosecuted until I became president of the ADDA and began using my energies and passion to address broader issues of office policy affecting the careers of my colleagues and legislative issues of statewide concern that impacted public safety. It is in the last ten years that I have distinguished myself as leader, a legislative problem solver, a consensus builder, and a dedicated servant of the community.
While serving as elected President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for eight years I fought for and attained certification of the ADDA as a union in 2008. Unionization gave DDAs the right to bargain for a contract, and gave line prosecutors a much needed voice to address low salaries and long standing workplace issues that deeply affect office morale.
Co-Author Proposition 9: Victim’s Bill of Rights: “Marsy’s Law”
In the summer of 2007 I chose to set aside my personal intention to run for District Attorney in 2008, and instead took a 6 month leave of absence without pay to co-write Marsy’s Law: Victim’s Bill of Rights which was passed November 4, 2008. Working collaboratively with victims and prosecutors I identified and co-authored the nation’s most comprehensive set of individually held rights for victims. I wrote Penal Code Section 679.026, the statute that created a Marsy’s Card that must be given to every victim, and the provision requiring restitution to victims first, before governmental fines and cost of probation.
I am a legislative problem solver. According to the legislative counsel’s office estimates, by my re-writing of Penal Code Section 679.026 to create denial periods as long as 15 years that reflect a realistic parole date, I contributed to saving the state “tens of millions of dollars” a year by fixing the “lifer” parole hearing process which wasted money with yearly parole hearings that caused victims to suffer the stress of yearly hearings, and inmates the emotional stress of unrealistic expectations of release. Inmates benefit by an accelerator clause that allows another hearing within one year if they can show new facts meriting an earlier release. The law has been upheld on appeal as not increasing punishment, but simply setting realistic dates.
Early Release and the Prison Overcrowding Crisis
More importantly I created and incorporated into the California Constitution a new concept, “collectively held” rights of victims in order to deal with the severe statewide overcrowding and early release policies are now predictable in crisis. I co-authored Marsy’s Law and created the concept of “collective rights” because as a leader I saw the current crisis coming and chose to do something about it. It was not a surprise as there were class action lawsuit filed in 1990 and 2001. Early release has been occurring for over a decade and simply ignored as a problem. As a result of our “tough on crime” policies, incarceration rates have soared while space has remained limited by financial realities. There are three choices: 1.) allow inhumane overcrowding of and protect society by carrying out judicial sentences; 2.) or alleviate overcrowding with early release policies and jeopardize public safety by making judges essentially “toothless” and 3.) reduce the flow into the penal system by alternative sentencing. The first two choices were addressed in Marsy’s Law. Given two bad choices, the county jails elected in favor of early release; the prisons chose to allow inhumane overcrowding. Both are on a collision course given the Governor’s plan to re-align and house state prisoners in overloaded county jails that use early release policies.
Early Release Crisis
I co-authored the Truth in Sentencing provision in 2007 designed to deal with the crisis we now face with the early release of offenders from county jail after serving as little as 10% to 20% of their sentences. This is a uniform release of all offenders, including dangerous and violent individuals sentenced by judges to serve time for a reason. The sheriff’s policy must be uniform and not selectively alter individual judicial sentences. This will be an even greater problem if realignment plans of the governor shifts the prison population to already overloaded county jails. (Article I, section 28 f( 5)Truth in Sentencing. Sentences that are individually imposed upon convicted criminal wrongdoers based upon the facts and circumstances surrounding their cases shall be carried out in compliance with the courts’ sentencing orders, and shall not be substantially diminished by early release policies intended to alleviate overcrowding in custodial facilities.
Marsy’s Law was also written to attempt to prompt legislators to fix the decades long problem of massive and inhumane overcrowding in prisons by officials that chose to allow inhumane overcrowding rather than the dangerous early release policy followed by the jails. Article I section 28 f(5) was written to require funding as a collective right of victims because if there is no space, there is early release, more crime, and more victims. It was amended in whole by Prop 9 Marsy’s Law to read .. “…The legislative branch shall ensure sufficient funding to adequately house inmates for the full terms of their sentences, except for statutorily authorized credits which reduce those sentences.)
I will address the third solution to the overcrowding problem in 2012 by implementing a diversion and alternative sentencing methodology that recognizes the damaging effect of the felony label on youthful non violent offenders, and diverts them from jail into closely monitored and verifiable productive work. If they remain crime free and complete the program they have a path towards a clean record. If they fail they are subject to incremental punishment.
Details of the approach will be outlined as the campaign proceeds, and will be posted online at www.Reform first.com
I have demonstrated leadership in building the Association, forming the union and served as its president from 2002 to 2010: willing to negotiate and sign an Memorandum of Understanding that would implement changes in work place that reflect the needs of the office as well as of its prosecutors, DAIs and staff: FINANCIAL: I would demonstrate leadership, my commitment to fiscal responsibility, and my priorities when I ask the Board to roll back my pay as elected DA salary by 30%. I would sign and limit by law my ability, and that of future DAs to seek raises greater than that obtained for clerical staff and line DDAs over the prior four year period. METAL DETECTORS: I would subject myself and upper-management to the same metal detector policies and public screening searches until I negotiated, legislated or litigated bypass provisions for all Deputies and DA personnel that passed yearly back ground checks. PUNITIVE TRANSFERS: I would improve morale by implementing the ADDAs proposed transfer policy, limiting involuntary transfers to one year and requiring efforts to fill them voluntarily by distributing them to all DDAs first. COMP TIME: I would encourage experienced prosecutors to continue handling jury trials by implementing a practical and equitable method of awarding comp time for hours worked in trial or other demanding assignments.
Chief Deputy District Attorney
My ten years of leadership experience. I have served on some of the most important decision-making bodies in the office. I have extensive experience in developing and executing office policy. I have supervised most of the office. I have the knowledge, the temperament and the judgment to successfully lead the office.
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