On March 9, the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends aired a blistering segment attacking newly elected Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón and his decision to bar prosecutors from pursuing the death penalty against a pair of accused child murderers. The guest for the segment was Jon Hatami, head of the DA’s child abuse unit and the lead prosecutor on the case. If it is unusual for a prosecutor to batter his boss on national TV, it is extraordinary for one to say, as Hatami did that morning, “We now have a district attorney who is pro-criminal, anti-victim, and who refuses to follow the law.”
But these are extraordinary times in the Los Angeles DA’s office. Gascón unseated incumbent Jackie Lacey in November and vowed to shake things up inside the nation’s largest local prosecutor’s office. And on his first day on the job, he delivered with a dizzying set of reforms, from suspending the death penalty to getting rid of cash bail to ending the practice of charging juveniles as adults. The backlash has been as big and dramatic as the implications of the changes; it has been furious and, increasingly, politically opportunistic.