Transcript: Remarks by John Breault at KPCC’s AirTalk debate on May 29

Excerpt of remarks by John L. Breault, 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

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

“First of all, the big changes – I would give more discretions to the trial deputies. I want them to evaluate cases – know what they’re trying. That means the filing deputies to file it – all the way up.

“You’d set guidelines. If they follow the guidelines, they’re rewarded. If they don’t follow the guidelines, they’re punished. Just like you do in anything else in society.

“When I started, that’s the way the office was run. It wasn’t by policies – it was by guidelines. And you were expected to use your legal judgement. I was never called on it. I was given – within a year and a half – my first death penalty case, I went up and told J. Miller Leavy, the director, ‘This isn’t a death penalty case.’

“Cyber crime. It is the biggest increase. But I don’t want to just train certain people to do it. I think the whole office has to be trained. First person to get that cyber crime case is going to be the filing deputy. If he doesn’t understand it, it’s a bad filing, the case is going to have trouble the whole time it’s in the courtroom. The preliminary hearing deputy has to know how to put it on. After that, it goes into trial court. The calendar deputy has to understand it in order to dispo it. If he can’t dispo it, then the trial deputy doesn’t know how to try it.”

Two areas of responsibilities that Breault would de-emphasize as DA:  

“I think the big thing is management. I think it’s too big. It’s too heavy, and it has too much influence on people down below.

“My second one would be infractions in misdemeanors. We don’t like giving them up but if you have to throw something out…”

Would Breault 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? 


Does Breault 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.] What needs to be changed is not throwing out the law. The law is perfectly good. What needs to be done is an initiative – like they’re trying to throw out the law with – to change the court system so that they put the time and energy and money in hearing those appeals quickly, expeditiously so that the punishment is enforced… It’s going to take an initiative. I don’t think the court’s going to make the modification on their own and I don’t think the legislatures are going to do it.”

What could be done to reform the system to make it more equitable so that there would be fewer false convictions? Would Breault 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?

“Our office’s position is that we give everything to the defense. Everything we know about, we turn over – that we can legally turn over. If the victim has a privacy right, we have to respect that. Otherwise, we believe in full discovery.

“There needs more training for the DAs – their ethical training, for Brady and other ethic issues that come up in this areas. Police officers so that they understand that they need to be open to tell the DA’s office.

“A lot of the cases you see in the newspapers where they have reversals, it’s the police officers [who] withheld information the prosecutors didn’t even know about.”

Does Breault 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’m for legalizing marijuana. Period. Right across-the-board…”

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 Breault support? 

“Obviously, we’re all in favor of this idea. You have to fund it. Once we convict someone, it’s very hard for us to control anything because it then goes to the judge for sentencing, it then goes to the probation department for what programs they have, what money they can get. There isn’t a lot there.

“If the DA’s office can do anything it has to be pre-plea. That means when the case first comes in that it gets diverted off into some program.

“Because even in drug court, we don’t really have a say in what happens to those individuals. The probation officer and the judge determine that.”


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