August 09, 2012
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Last Tuesday evening, the top two vote-getters in the recent primary for the next district attorney of Los Angeles County, squared off to a packed auditorium in downtown L.A. Jackie Lacey (who got 32 percent) and Alan Jackson (who got 24 percent) spent most of the two hours trading barbs at each other’s records, and why – as each one put it – he/she would be the better D.A. for the county.
The D.A.’s office of Los Angeles County is probably the largest county prosecutor’s office in the nation and in addition, it maintains a high profile, notwithstanding its actual closeness to the entertainment capital. Therefore, the next person to head the office has to be carefully vetted in every possible way.
Presently, both candidates work for D.A., Steve Cooley, who has endorsed Lacey. She has a good background as an administrator and years of courtroom experience. Jackson may have courtroom experience, but his administrative skills – something that is mandatory for the D.A.’s job – is an unknown factor at this point.
Lacey zoomed in on that during their exchange by describing him as being “naïve and ignorant of the politics of the D.A.’s office.” She also said that she resented his attitude: “To say that I am not familiar or that I am out of touch is ridiculous.”
Two of the most contentious issues that will be facing the next D.A. are the death penalty and the governor’s order sending state prisoners to an already overcrowded jail system throughout the state.
In a previous interview, Lacey explained her position on the death penalty thus: “I think the biggest fear, morally, of the death penalty is that we do not want to execute the wrong person. I think we need checks and balances in place. Under my administration, (the DA’s) office would make absolutely sure the evidence points to the right person. One of the reforms we have to do is streamline the appeals process. It suffers from a lack of training for lawyers to handle those appeals. Although I’m a prosecutor who has been on the side of seeking justice by seeking the death penalty, I believe everybody has the right to a fair trial.”
And about the governor sending prisoners to the jail system, she said, “I believe at one point the prisons were at 230 percent their capacity, which is inhumane. What I disagree with is how quickly he thrust this responsibility onto the county. [AB 109] was passed in less than a day; I think it only took four or five hours. When we got the law, it took a team of lawyers a month to figure out what it was about. I also think if the governor was going to shift all of these people over here, where is the money? You can’t just give us the problems of the state without giving us the money. And the money has not arrived. The Governor is counting on you guys voting for the tax increase in November.”
The forum was hosted by Los Angeles County Organization of Police and Sheriffs (LACOPS), a decade-old coalition of city and county law enforcement organizations, and it was the first debate since the primary. It was moderated by Warren Olney of KCRW Radio. In addition, the public was invited, and allowed to ask questions of the candidates at the end of the debate.