Transcript: Remarks by Jackie Lacey at KPCC’s AirTalk debate on May 29

Excerpt of remarks by Jackie Lacey, Chief 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 

Jackie Lacey, Chief Deputy District Attorney. SOURCE:

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

“I think, Larry, that public safety realignment is going to force us to make a couple of things – move it up in terms of higher priority.

“I would like to see the office expand alternative sentencing courts [to] deal with those suffering from drug addiction and mental illness. I think we could do a better job of handling those cases for non-serious, non-violent offenders…

“And I would increase the emphasis on cyber crime, on identity theft. I think that that is the fastest growing crime and that I would like to see more prosecutors trained to do that.”

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

“I think I would de-emphasize misdemeanors at this point because many of the misdemeanor courts are closing. They’re slated to close…We have significant misdemeanor operations. Some of those courts are closing. I’d like to take maybe some of those prosecutors out of those courtrooms that are closing obviously and put them in felony court.

“With regard to anything else, I can’t imagine we would back off of anything else. But that would be significant.”

Would Lacey 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?

“There is an initiative (Three Strikes Reform Act) that’s going to be on the ballot in November that would permit that to happen. I’ve supported the initiative…I think it’s fair. There are people that have been doing time on non-serious, non-violent third strikers. It seems that the fair thing to do right now is to provide some sort of relief.”

Does Lacey 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?

“[No.] After spending a quarter of a decade in the District Attorney’s office and certainly the last 10 years sitting on the committee that makes those decisions, there are some evil individuals out there who commit some ridiculously cruel crimes. And I think as the District Attorney you’ve got to come to grips with and make a decision: Is this the right punishment? If you feel that it is appropriate, as I do for some murders, then the solution is not to stop the death penalty. It is to figure out a way to streamline the appeals.”

What could be done to reform the system to make it more equitable so that there would be fewer false convictions? Would Lacey 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 in the criminal justice system there’s always room for improvement. When you, as a prosecutor, hear about someone who was wrongfully convicted or forced to plea guilty and was not guilty, you feel the same way the public feels about that – how could that happen? It’s very important for us to audit what we do, to take a look at the systems to see if we can improve, look for corroboration. As prosecutors, we have a Brady obligation. And as chief deputy, I was one of the first people who mandated that all lawyers get trained on the Brady obligation…

“In general, there are some things we can’t share [with defense attorneys]. There are times, for instance, we can’t share witnesses’ address or something that would compromise their safety… As a prosecutor in the DA’s office…I did invite people into my office, open up the file, let them look through it and share. And I think prosecutors are the good guys and we need to act that way. We should not be hiding at all.”

Does Lacey 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? 

“I believe that over-the-counter sales for profit are illegal. A co-op is supposed to be something where it’s a shared thing. It’s not supposed to be something where you get rich selling marijuana to people with a recommendation.”

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 Lacey support? 

“I’ve been doing alternative sentencing courts for 5 years. The first was women’s re-entry court. The second was the mental health court. And most recently, veterans court.

“These courts don’t require any money. They save money. Women’s re-entry court saves $6.2 million. Veterans court save $3.1 million. And it’s because incarceration is the most costly thing you can do when someone enters the system.

“These treatment programs actually save money and they reduce recidivism. Recidivism rates are 70% when people are incarcerated; they’re something like 30% when you do alternative sentencing courts.

“And so they are here. They are nationwide. The LA County District Attorney’s office has piloted these programs. Now it’s time to allow them to fly and really fully utilize them.”


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