Transcript: Remarks by Danette Meyers at KPCC’s AirTalk debate on May 29

Excerpt of remarks by Danette Meyers, Senior Deputy District Attorney at the KPCC debate for candidates running for Los Angeles County District Attorney

Debate moderated by Larry Mantle on May 29, 2012 

Danette Meyers,

Two areas of responsibilities that Meyers would move up in priority as District Attorney: 

“Priority-wise in the DA’s office, the first thing I would like to do is to reform the juvenile justice system. I think it’s incredibly important that we stop recidivism at that level. I would like to put career prosecutors who want to be in those divisions in those divisions – as opposed to making it a penalty to go to juvenile, which is the policy we presently have.

“Number two: Environmental crimes. I think it is very important. And when I started my campaign in 2010, I was the one who came out and said the DA’s office needs to start again prosecute and rejuvenate that division of the DA’s office.”

Two areas of responsibilities that Meyers would lower in priority as DA:  

“Too much attention is being focused on and too money is being spent on high-profile cases. If DAs would just try case like those of us…who do both high-profile cases and non-high profile cases, I guarantee you we’d save money and we’d have better prosecution of cases. And so I would put less money into those prosecutions and just do them like we do every other prosecution that we’re so successful at…Even with the scrutiny because if you put prosecutors who know how to try cases – and I’m one of those prosecutors and I’ve tried high publicity cases. And quite frankly, I haven’t had the opportunity of having all the money generated into my cases like other DAs have and I’ve been just as successful.”

Would Meyers like to see a review of cases under the previous district attorney life sentences under three strikes that wouldn’t qualify now but did then, go back and review those cases and perhaps file for a shorter sentence?

“I absolutely think you should go back. You should go back and look at every single person that was sentenced to 25 years to life prior to the Supreme Court deciding People v. Romero. Even after that where judges had the discretion to go ahead and strike strikes and refused to do it. A lot of things happened, and I think there’s no problem with reviewing, giving something a second look, particularly when it deals with the criminal justice system and, most importantly, when it deals with the liberty of a human being. That’s paramount in the criminal justice system and I think it’s paramount among our lawyers.”

Does Meyers support an initiative in November on the ballot calling for cases that would have typically been prosecuted as death penalty to be maximum sentenced life in prison without parole?

“[Yes.] I think if you took a poll in our office, I think the majority of people would say, ‘Get rid of the death penalty.’ Look, I’ve tried 6 death penalty cases. I have 4 people on death row. I know when I look at the victims’ family members I can say absolutely positively, ‘In your lifetime, with over 700 people on California’s death row, at an expense to the state of $184 million a year, they’re not going to get executed.’

“We have to be smart about crime. If people are dying of old age on death row and we can’t open the University of California or the UC systems to kids, guess what? We’ve got to cut somewhere. And if the system is not working because the appellate process is not working, we have a problem and I’m not sure we can reform it. That’s why I’m voting for the ballot measure.”

What could be done to reform the system to make it more equitable so that there would be fewer false convictions? Would Meyers support the DA’s office taking the lead in coming up with best practices that are used in everything from police interrogations down to the full sharing with defense attorneys of all kinds of information that might help avoid the prospect of a false conviction?

“I think training, training, training. Training of deputies. Training of police officers.

“But more importantly, deputy DAs need to know that you’re not going to get promoted based upon the number of convictions that you get. And sometimes DAs feel that they’ve got to go to court and get a conviction. And unfortunately, that philosophy and mentality occurs all too often.

“My belief is that DAs go into court – you try a case when you know that you can prove that case beyond a reasonable doubt. And if you have a doubt about that, you dismiss it because it will come back to bite you.

“I truly believe that training of law enforcement officers is incumbent in this system. We have got to train them better. We’ve got to have DAs promoted in this office based and supervising this office based upon merit because the DAs who supervise are the training officers of the DAs. And when you don’t have it based upon merit – and I’d tell you in this present administration it’s not based upon merit – you’ve got a problem. You’ve got low-level prosecutors who really don’t know what they’re doing.

“So I think training, training, training is the key.”

Does Meyers think a state ballot measure that would allow for the legal operations of storefront collectives where money is exchanged and places to where marijuana is delivered will be legal under the law? 

“For profit – violation of the law. [The money has] got to go back into the cooperative.”

What is the DA’s office’s role in rehabilitation or alternative sentencing? Are there really sources there to do rehabilitation at the DA office level? What kind of differential or alternative sentencing would Meyers support? 

“You need more live-in drug treatment programs and you might make those mandatory as a condition of probation as opposed to sending individuals addicted to drugs to the county jail, where that person derives no benefit from incarceration.

“A lot more probationary sentences on cases where our office has a policy of mandating state prison. I think that would really and truly assist as alternatives to incarceration.

“I would like to see the expansion of the drug court, veterans court, Prop. 36…

“One of the things that they did when they cut the budget was they got rid of all the Prop. 36 courts. And Prop. 36 courts were incredibly beneficial because you had one judge who listened to all the cases and that judge knew each defendant. So when a person fell off, the judge went right back to that person and encourage that person to benefit from the drug treatment programs.”

 

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