Failure is not an option: Support for death penalty reform is critical

By Michele Hanisee

If we don’t fix California’s death penalty system this year, we will lose it. The death penalty will no longer be a sentencing option for child murderers, cop killers and others who commit the most monstrous crimes imaginable.

That’s why the ADDA has joined a growing list of elected DAs, law enforcement groups, district attorney and firefighter associations and private donors in backing a bipartisan effort to qualify a ballot initiative that would correct the myriad flaws in the current system.

The current system is, simply put, broken. Inmate housing is enormously expensive, capital defendants wait five years or more to get an appellate attorney appointed, and it takes an average of 12 years for a death penalty appeal to be heard and resolved by the California Supreme Court.

In 2008, the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice described the system as “dysfunctional,” noting that the time from sentencing to execution averages more than two decades, costing taxpayers well over $100 million annually. State voters have made it clear that they support the death penalty in principle – and that they support reforming our existing system.

But, despite all this, the state Legislature has refused to act. As a result, the only way to carry out the will of the people, and correct grave injustices, is through the initiative process.

The reform initiative would:

  • Expand the pool of available defense attorneys.
  • Require that a defendant who is sentenced to death be appointed a lawyer at the time of sentence, meaning the defendant’s claims will be heard sooner.
  • Allow the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to double-cell death row inmates and house them at prisons other than San Quentin.
  • Require condemned inmates to work and pay restitution to victims.
  • Enable CDCR to enact an execution protocol without having to reply to every question or suggestion from any person in the world who sends them a letter.
  • Give the California Supreme Court oversight over the state agency that manages death penalty appeals.

Eliminating single-cell housing would save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. And these reforms would create a fairer system for defendants and victims alike

The stakes are enormous. Death penalty opponents are supporting a competing initiative to eliminate this form of punishment. If our reform initiative fails, we will hand them a victory – and, by extension, we will hand a victory to California’s most brutal criminals. The 750 inmates on California’s death row have slaughtered more than 1,000 people, including 226 children and 43 law enforcement officers. They raped and/or tortured 294 of their victims.

A donation of $25, $50 or $100 will go a long way to help qualify this crucial reform measure for the November ballot. You can donate here.

If you are able to volunteer your time to gather signatures for this initiative, please contact me as soon as possible You can read in detail about this measure, and learn how to help, at

Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys. The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board member, click here.

Low-income communities will be devastated by felon-freeing fiasco

By Eric Siddall

Gov. Jerry Brown’s woefully misguided bid to free thousands of dangerous felons from state prisons would slam low-income, minority neighborhoods that are already battered by disproportionally high crime rates.

Under Brown’s dangerous initiative, felons would be eligible for parole after serving 50 percent of the sentence for their primary offense – regardless of any enhancements that had been added onto the sentence, and regardless of previous strikes for brutal crimes such as rape and murder.

These hardened criminals would not be paroled to wealthy communities. Rather, they would be unleashed on poor, primarily minority neighborhoods where they previously preyed upon the hard-working residents.

There is compelling statistical evidence to support this assertion.

While crime has surged throughout most of Los Angeles during the past year, it has decreased in West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, which are home to most of the city’s wealthiest communities. A growing number of experts believe the crime increase is due in no small part to Proposition 47, a 2014 voter-approved initiative that turned a host of serious felonies into misdemeanors, resulting in the early release of thousands of felons.

We can see that granting early release to dangerous criminals has already increased crime in lower-income areas. Brown’s initiative would further hammer these battered communities.

We are by no means suggesting this is an intentional aim of the people who are trying to qualify the felon-freeing initiative for the November ballot. What we are saying is that this is atrocious public policy, and that it’s imperative that those promoting it take a step back and consider the law of unintended consequences.

Brown has admitted that the impetus for his ill-advised initiative is to reduce prison overcrowding. To accomplish this, he wants to release dangerous prisoners who, when freed, would commit more crimes that would land them in prison once again. This pretzel-logic does not make sense anywhere except, apparently, in the state Capitol.

The initiative inched closer to reality earlier this month when the California Supreme Court authorized Brown and his allies to start gathering signatures to qualify it for the ballot. In doing so, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye stayed a lower court ruling that had halted Brown’s measure after the California District Attorneys Association sued to block it.

It would be wise for us to assume a worst-case scenario will come to pass and the initiative will qualify. Accordingly, we must – starting now – leverage every resource we have to defeat it in November. We cannot allow some of our most vulnerable residents to continue to bear the impact of misguided, opportunistic public policies.

Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.  He can be contacted at  The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.


L.A. Gangs Will Love Governor’s Ballot Initiative

By Eric Siddall

As we have commented in previous blogs, Governor Brown is proposing a radical experiment for public safety. He engineered a ballot initiative that will — contrary to his claims — place violent felons back on the streets. The Brown Early Release initiative is even more troubling in light of statistics released last week which show that violent crime is up 12.7% in the City of Los Angeles for 2016.

Gang-related crimes are skyrocketing.  Look at the numbers for LA City alone: Last weekend 10 of 12 shootings were gang related; this year, 24 of the 48 homicides were gang related. Most importantly, the rise in violent crime was isolated to gang infested neighborhoods.

What does the Brown Early Release initiative have to do with the gang violence in Los Angeles? Everything.  It guts the gang sentencing enhancements. It guts the Three Strikes law. It guts other anti-recidivist measures.  A gang member who commits an assault with a knife for his gang, who had a prior strike, and is sentenced by a judge to 14 years in state prison would normally be released by the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) after 11 years.  Under Brown’s Early Release initiative, he would get released after 2 years.

Brown’s radical experiment will result in a flood of seasoned gang members being released back into their street ranks. This will mean more crime in gang infested neighborhoods. It will mean more drive-by shootings. It will mean more murders.

The recent spike is troubling. Yet, this spike will turn into a full-blown hurricane if the Brown Early Release initiative gets passed.

Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.  He can be contacted at  The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

Felon-freeing initiative advances

By ADDA Board of Directors

Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to flood California communities with dangerous felons after they have served only a fraction of their prison sentences has inched closer to reality.

The California Supreme Court on Friday authorized Brown and his allies to start gathering signatures for a November ballot initiative that would offer early release to certain inmates, including those who had prior convictions for violent felonies. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye stayed a lower court ruling that had halted Brown’s measure after the California District Attorneys Association sued to block it.

Under Brown’s dangerous initiative, a prisoner would be eligible for parole after serving 50 percent of the sentence for his primary offense – regardless of any enhancements that had been added onto the sentence and regardless of previous strikes for heinous crimes such as rape and murder.

The initiative would deal a devastating double blow to public safety. By basing parole eligibility on the primary offense only, it would eliminate prosecutors’ ability to use sentencing enhancements to secure plea bargains. More disturbingly, it would further gut California’s voter-approved and highly successful three strikes law. A criminal could have three, four, even ten strikes and still be eligible for a parole hearing after serving just half his time for the primary offense.

Gov. Brown has admitted that the impetus for his ill-advised initiative is to reduce prison overcrowding. To accomplish this, he wants to release dangerous prisoners who very likely would commit more crimes that would land them in prison once again. Apparently this is what passes for logic these days in the state Capitol.

Brown cannot claim complete victory yet. Friday’s ruling was a temporary stay; the full Supreme Court is scheduled to review the lower court’s ruling this week.

Of course, Brown has appointed three of those Supreme Court justices. If the Court green-lights his initiative, the ADDA will leverage every resource we have to defeat it at the ballot box in November. We simply cannot allow state voters to be hoodwinked by the misleading arguments that Brown and his supporters will bombard them with.

Brown’s felon-freeing initiative would be bad enough if it were the only threat to public safety that California residents face. Combined with other obscenities such as Prop. 47 and attacks on the state’s cash bail system, it would be devastating.

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. 

A Radically Dangerous Experiment with Public Safety

By Eric Siddall

Governor Brown has proposed a radical experiment with public safety.  It will mean the early release of 40,000 prisoners. It will potentially give the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) unlimited power to grant early release for the remaining 80,000 prisoners, including those who committed murder, rape, and child molestation. This constitutional amendment will overturn four decades of carefully crafted sentencing laws, including 40 laws and 6 voter approved ballot initiatives. It will make it virtually impossible to prosecute juvenile murderers and rapists as adults.

The consequences of this initiative are far reaching.  Today, our article will focus on how the initiative seeks to reduce the prison sentences of all prisoners, not just “non-violent” offenders.

First, a general overview: The purpose of incarceration is three-fold; 1) to protect society; 2) to punish; and 3) to rehabilitate. Today, there are about 117,000 felons in California prisons. They are there because they committed violent and serious offenses against the public. They were all placed in prison by judges who examined the full record. The current state prison population represents the worst offenders in California. No one in state prison is there because of drug possession or minor theft related crime.  Recognizing these facts, Governor Brown deliberately attempted to mislead the public by entitling his initiative the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016” — because who would vote for a proposition entitled, “Early Release for Felons, including murderers, rapists, and gang members”?

The mechanics of this constitutional amendment are simple. Prisoners will now be released based upon their primary offense, ignoring the original sentence handed down by a judge. It disregards sentencing enhancements and criminal history. This means if a crime was gang motivated, the additional sentencing enhancement will be meaningless. If the prisoner has an extensive criminal history, including violent strikes, he will be eligible for parole at the same time as the first time offender.

The initiative is a full-frontal assault on enhancements and anti-recidivist statutes. Besides ignoring enhancements and criminal history, when the parole date is reached, the parole commission will be given unchallengeable authority to immediately release the prisoner.

In addition, early release of all prisoners is enabled by this legislation.  The governor claims his initiative only applies to “non-violent” prisoners. This soothing claim that early release is limited to “non-violent” offenders is deliberately misleading.  The initiative allows CDCR to award unlimited additional conduct credits to shorten sentences of all state prisoners, not just those imprisoned for a “non-violent offense.”

In short, this initiative seeks to reduce prison sentences for all state prisoners, no matter their crime or their criminal history.  It ignores the harm those prisoners have done to their victims, disregards the use of guns in commission of a crime, and dismisses the motivation for a crime — all in a headlong rush to speed the release of dangerous criminals.

Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.  The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

ADDA Urges Parole Board to Deny Freedom to Cop-Killer

By ADDA Board of Directors

The Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys strongly urges the state parole board to deny freedom for a woman who was convicted of the assassination of an LAPD officer in 1988.

On the night of September 3, 1988, Officer Daniel Pratt  and his partner, Officer Veronica Delao Jenkins, were undercover in South Los Angeles when they heard what they thought was gunfire. They then encountered the headlights of the car that, just minutes before, had been involved in a gang-related drive-by shooting, leaving three people wounded. Upon pursuit, Brooks made an abrupt U-turn, and headed toward the officers. Brooks drove the wrong way down a one-way street so her gang-member boyfriend could shoot at the officers.  Kirkton Moore fired at the officers from close range with an AR-15 rifle, killing Officer Daniel Pratt.

As the driver of the car involved in the shooting, Brooks was convicted of first-degree murder of a peace officer and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. She was denied parole when she first became eligible in 2010. Brooks was not supposed to be up for parole for another two years, but petitioned for an earlier hearing. Brooks claimed she was free of discipline, had gone through a rehabilitation program and earned an associate’s degree. The state parole board granted her request for an early hearing, which is scheduled to take place this month.

Justice demands that she be denied again.

Officer Pratt is survived by his wife, Andria; daughters, Amanda and Heather; and sons, Danny Jr. and Nicholas. Also surviving him are his parents, Joyce and Roy Pratt Sr., four brothers, three sisters, and a host of other loved ones.

Daniel Pratt’s brother, LAPD Captain Brian Pratt, told KABC-TV that he spoke to Brooks at a hearing several years ago and she showed no remorse for the killing. “She acted like she was trying to weep, but I don’t think she could even shed a tear when I was speaking to her. She just looked angry,” Pratt told the station. “You can’t just kill a policeman and expect to have the rewards of life that other people have.”

One might think that it’s a slam-dunk that the parole board will deny freedom to a cop killer. Think again.  Last year, the Parole Board voted to release a convicted cop killer on parole, Jesus Cecena who was convicted of the “execution style” death of San Diego Police Officer Archie Buggs.  It was only though the Gov. Jerry Brown reversing the decision that a cop killer is not free.

Any panel that can inexplicably vote to free one cop-killer can just as easily do so again. We need all of our members to write letters of opposition to the parole board, and to urge everyone you know to do likewise. Please make sure to cite Brooks’ CDC number of W40103. The address is:

Board of Parole Hearings

Attn: Pre Hearing Correspondence

P.O. Box 4036

Sacramento, CA 95812-4036

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. 


Wait in Line Governor

By Eric Siddall

Today is Super Tuesday. Millions of Americans will patiently stand in line to vote for candidates who they have heard about, heard from, and who have been vigorously scrutinized by the media. Today is also the day that the California Supreme Court will hear how Governor Brown refused to stand in line and refused to hear from the public.

This move by the Governor violates the principles of transparency and sound deliberation. It also violates a law he signed in 2014, the purpose of which was to improve the initiative process by requiring a public comment period.  In the past, poorly drafted initiatives  became laws without being fully scrutinized.  The result was often a cascade of unintended consequences. The 2014 law rectified this problem by allowing the public to comment about proposed initiatives and requiring the legislature to hold public hearings.  After this deliberative process the drafter is permitted to amend his initial proposal to correct any flaws pointed out during the public comment period.  This period of public comment would have been important for Governor Brown’s amendment.

The drafter’s first version of the initiative, submitted on December 22, 2015, would have changed the procedures by which a juvenile who commits a violent crime is charged as an adult. The theme, subject, and purpose of the initiative related only to a small group of juvenile offenders. The initiative had nothing to do with sentencing, sentencing credits, or the adult prison system. It simply made a change to a single state law.

The public had 30 days to comment on this proposal. The drafters of this proposal were then supposed to use the public comments to add amendments to fix potential drafting errors. Unfortunately, this is not what happened.

Instead, on January 26, 2016, Governor Brown submitted an “amendment” that gutted most of the original initiative and added an entirely new section that has nothing to do with juvenile court procedure.  This new section would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for all adult criminals.  Moreover, this proposed change is not a mere tweak to a state law.   Governor Brown proposes to change the state constitution!

That’s right. The Governor’s amendment which he filed after the public comment period, thus depriving the citizens of any opportunity for democratic process, changes the Constitution of the State of California,  If enacted, this colossal and radical change to felony sentencing law that received no public scrutiny will have a lasting impact on Californians and victims of crime for years to come.

In order to understand how sweeping this change is, consider that the original proposal only addressed the procedures for directly charging a juvenile as an adult.  In 2014, there were about 400 direct filings in the entire state. Brown’s “amendment” would apply to every single prisoner in state prison, or roughly 113,000 of the most serious and violent felons incarcerated in California.

Changing our Constitution, changing 40 years of sentencing law, changing around 40 criminal statues, and changing six statewide initiatives is too important to do a rush job. Governor Brown should honor the process that he helped create and support.  He should wait in line like every other Californian to have public comment and legislative review of such an impactful initiative.

Eric Siddall is a Director with the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys. The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.


Who Are You Going To Believe, Me Or Your Lying Eyes?

By Marc Debbaudt

“Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” Richard Pryor in his filmed comedy performance, Live on the Sunset Strip, tells the story of his wife catching him with another woman. He denies anything is going on, and asks his wife, “Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?” Before Richard Pryor, Chico Marx, playing the character Chicolini while impersonating Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx), spoke the line in the Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup. That refrain ran through my head when I read the breathless headline, “The Great Experiment: Realigning Criminal Justice in California and beyond” in the March issue of “The Annals of the American Academy of Political & Social Science (The Annals). Released on February 19th, and chock full of “analyses,” the publication examined “Realignment” and changes in incarceration brought about by the 2011 California Assembly Bill 109.  Examining various aspects of the subject, the publication concluded with predictions about “The Future of Decarceration.”  (Yes, “decarceration”–I kid you not.)

One article, co-authored by Magus Lofstrom of the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), concluded Realignment had no effect on violent crime and had “only a modest increase in property crime.” That conclusion had already been picked up by various  news outlets eager to prove that the great public safety “experiment” is working.  And then…..on the very same day The Annals was published, Margus Lofstrom and PPIC issued a press release regarding the FBI’s nationwide preliminary crime data for the first six months of 2015.  The lead sentence said it all: “Preliminary data from the FBI offer discouraging news about crime trends in California’s largest cities.”

Wait….say what?  The release went on:  “These increases, particularly in property crime, are widespread and not trivial in magnitude.”  I asked myself how in light of his distinguished analyses in the March issue of The Annals could that be, but I read on.  “Of the 66 California cities in the data, 49 saw increases in violent crime and 48 experienced increases in property crimes.Many of these cities saw double-digit percent increases-34 in violent crime and 24 in property crime.”

Sadly, as reported by the PPIC, “The increase in property crime in California cities stands in sharp contrast to the other four states with the highest populations: large cities in Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois saw decreases of …property crimes…”  No, it can’t be true! The experiment in decarceration proves to be a public safety travesty?

Yep, sometimes timing is everything-on the very same day a publication devoted to trumpeting the success of “decarceration” was published, PPIC had to acknowledge the reality of soaring crime rates in California.  And boy did California represent!  We are the winners! Five of the top 10 spots nationwide for an increase in Violent Crime Rates went to California cities! Congratulations social engineers and George Gascón! California cities took “win, place, and show” for increases in Property Crime Rates. Unfortunately, Albuquerque, New Mexico sneaked into the #4 spot to break up the superfecta-although California cities rebounded to take 6 of the top 10 spots.  PPIC ended their press release with this gem: “If we can identify the factors that are contributing to higher crime rates, we can implement effective crime-preventive strategies.” Really?Gosh, let me think. Could it possibly be the result of “Prop 47” and “Realignment”? No, that would be much too obvious.

As I put down the “discouraging” FBI crime stats and continued to peruse the abstracts of The Annals, another article caught my eye.  Written by the Chief Probation Officer of San Francisco City/County, it was headlined ” A Practitioner’s Perspective on Realignment: A Giant Win in San Francisco.”  Again, I looked at the FBI Crime Stats:  San Francisco was #1 nationwide in the increase in Property Crime Rates, and #8 in the increase in Violent Crime Rates.  That’s a “Giant Win?”  Did he fall into the rabbit hole? Of course, then I remembered the piece was written by a probation officer who only sees a case if there is an arrest and a conviction.  Given the plummeting arrest rates in San Francisco by officers disheartened by George Gascon, the San Francisco DA‘s refusal to file cases,  I can understand why the author misinterprets her diminishing caseload as a success. By the way, Gascon, in  his own private “experiment” with the lives of citizens in San Francisco, created his own version of Prop 47 and witnessed crime rising as a result, but that didn’t stop him from thereafter foisting his skewed vision on the rest of California as one of Prop 47’s principal proponents.

Besides the deception of its title, calling it the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act when it had nothing to do with safety, one can only wonder what the spin will be by the backers of Realignment and Prop 47 given the drastic and indisputable increases in crime rates witnessed in the first half of 2015 as a result of their great safety “experiment.” Yes, you can be sure they will spin it.  And you can be sure they won’t apologize for their “experiment” at your expense having gone awry.

One thing is certain, the victims of crime represented by increasing crime rates — such as the San Francisco pharmacist  robbed at gunpoint last Wednesday, or the British tourist fighting for his life after being stabbed in the head during a street robbery in San Francisco at the same location two days later — will certainly use a harsher word than the PPIC to describe the soaring crime rate unleashed by Realignment and Prop 47. I rather doubt “discouraging” will be the word they use.

Marc Debbaudt is the Immediate Past President and President Emeritus of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.  The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

Your life or your privacy?

By Michele Hanisee

Apple’s position of refusing to cooperate with the FBI to help it unlock the phone of terrorist Syed Farook reminds one of the old Jack Benny line “Your money or your life”, or as Apple might put it “Your privacy or your life.”  Apple would have one believe that is the seriousness of the stakes involved, but it is not.

United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker made the case against Apple very clear.  Apple’s lack of co-operation is hindering the FBI investigation into the terrorist attack by Farook and his wife in San Bernardino on December 2, 2015, that took the lives of 14 innocent Americans and shattered the lives of numerous families. Equally importantly, however, is that the refusal to cooperate is based on the false claim that helping the FBI will result in opening the floodgates to the wholesale invasion of the privacy of all cell phone users.

Despite numerous misleading reports on social media, as is made clear in the 40-page motion by the US Attorney, the FBI does not want Apple to break the encryption on the device iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook.  The FBI wants simply wants Apple to alter the System Information File, the software that runs on the device to prevent the phone from erasing itself.

As all Apple owners know, as currently configured, after 10 failed attempts at entering a passcode, an iPhone can erase the personal data on the device. Also, the FBI is simply asking Apple to automate the process of attempting passcode combinations.  Most importantly, the court documents make it clear that the FBI will allow Apple to work on the phone at its office in such a manner that the software solution will be limited to this case and this phone.

As Technology Reporter Joe Miller made clear, Apple made the conscious choice in 2014 to remove itself from being able to access encrypted devices, mainly to avoid “ethical dilemmas such as the one they are faced with today.

In a recent letter to the public, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, announced that Apple is fighting a federal court order requiring Apple to bypass the encryption on the iPhone of terrorist murderer Syed Farook.  According to the letter, Apple is making this decision not based on the particulars of the Riverside mass terrorist killing but on larger policy issues that could allegedly affect all Apple product users.

Cook concedes that the FBI did not ask Apple to install this backdoor software on every single Apple device in the US or the world. But he then goes on to postulate about the evils that will result from this government intrusion.  Cook insists that compliance with this court order will put the safety of all Apple product users at risk.  Although Cook professes his respect for the FBI, the hyperbole ramps up as the letter progresses.  It begins the issues under the heading, “Threat to data security.”  Cook says complying with the court order will, “put our personal safety at risk,” it “threatens the security of our customers, “it “make[s] our users less safe.” Finally, Cook concludes, that Apple is, “being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack.”

Let’s clarify the issues.  Apple apparently believes that the harm that may result from cooperation with the FBI will allow future invasion of cell phone privacy and subsequent access to consumer data that will allow identity theft, fraud, and other financial inconveniences.  According to Apple, those outcomes are on the same plane of harm as terrorist attacks on Americans.

Is it reasonable for Apple to choose to protect a terrorist’s text messages rather than the life of  U.S. citizens?   Apple is a private company, who’s CEO,Cook, clearly believes that cooperating with this court order will jeopardize sales and profits.  Being the gatekeeper of the balance between privacy and security is a job for the courts and our government who are (though the decisions they make are not always supported by everyone) at least answerable to the public.  In this case, on the sliding scale between privacy, and security the court has made a decision that the safety of the public is more important.

Apple has reacted to the limited court order in this case by wildly overblowing the potential fallout.  Instead of forthrightly acknowledging the strict limits the court will place on the cooperation, Apple fearmongers by claiming  the government “could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple builds surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”  That’s not what is contemplated, and Apple well knows that.

The Courts, the government, and our elected officials are answerable to the public.  But Apple is not. Apple is protecting the rights of terrorists who used a government owned phone to plan fatal attacks on people living in the United States!

Let’s be clear, what the FBI is asking for is reasonable, a way to crack the four digit passcode for one particular phone, with Apple able to control (or destroy) the program created to accomplish that task.  That’s hardly the first step in the wholesale invasion of privacy.

Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA).   The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys.


The Myth of the Nonviolent Drug Offender

By Eric Siddall

The most repeated falsehood about the criminal justice system – that our prisons are stuffed with non-violent drug offenders – had a repeat airing in an editorial in the “newspaper of record,” the New York Times.

The use of the term “nonviolent” stirs up an image of some poor individual who is locked up for 20 years to life because he had a little baggy of cocaine. The image causes us to believe in the inherent unfairness of a system that relies too heavily on incarceration, and not enough on drug treatment programs.

The overwhelming majority of “nonviolent drug offenders” serving prison time are there because they were convicted of transporting or selling drugs. In other words, “nonviolent offender” is a polite and more politically palatable way of saying “drug dealer.” It is certainly harder to get the public worked up over the plight of drug dealers serving time. So here’s what the social engineers do: They follow the well-worn path of distorting the reality in order to affect public perception by changing the language used to describe the offender. Hence, they employ the “reformist” term that is less than truthful – “nonviolent” drug offender, a politically powerful skewing of the truth.

This term “nonviolent” is nothing but an Orwellian play on words. True, transporting and selling drugs are on its face nonviolent acts. But international cartels, terrorist organizations, and criminal street gangs thrive off of narcotics sales. If the editorial writers at the New York Times were to journey out of their newspaper high rise ivory tower and come down to a real-life housing development in Watts, for example, they could see the consequences of these “nonviolent” offenders.

The advocates behind mass prison release of criminals may be technically right that violence is not a necessary part of the actual act of transporting or selling. However, in actual practice the drug dealer or drug transporter is a willing and an integral part of an illegal enterprise that at its core relies on and promotes violence. Rival gangs in open warfare to control a drug corner for their dealers to operate and profit are hardly practicing a Gandhi-like movement of pacifism.

For example, take the gang that calls itself the Bounty Hunter Bloods. They control the territory of Nickerson Gardens – the largest housing development west of the Mississippi. During the 1980s, the Bounty Hunters controlled a good portion of the drug trade in South Central Los Angeles. They continue to be a dominant player in the crack cocaine trade.

For them to remain the dominate player in the drug trade in Nickerson Gardens they use violence to maintain control over their territory. Battling for turf and control and drug profits, they have been in open warfare with Grape Street Crips, amongst other gangs. The result has been a continuous bloodbath between these two gangs.  Their violence has claimed between 10 to 15 lives over the past five years. Even within the Bounty Hunters, there are internal feuds that are motivated by the profits of the drug trade-resulting in perhaps an additional ten murders over the same period. This does not include the countless shootings that erupt thanks to disputes involving drug dealers which result in people being maimed by gun violence.

Is mass incarceration the final answer? I don’t know what that really means. If it means sending criminals to prison for everything, the answer is No. Certainly, there are individuals who get caught up in the drug trade who are on the verge of being full-blown gang members, but are not quite there. Sending them to prison might be a mistake. It could cement their bond to the gang. Clearly, we should use probation for certain individuals. We should give first-time and second-time offenders, depending on their crime, a chance. However, to simply say that being a “drug dealer” is a nonviolent offense and, therefore, they should receive a shorter sentence or be quickly released back into the community, well, that is completely naive. There are collateral consequences to these crimes and too many of them result in violence.  The decision of what to do with a drug dealer needs to be made based on the history of the offender and the totality of the circumstances, not a misguided appellation or label of “nonviolent offender.”

It is easy for the social engineers and the moral conceptualists to write from the safe perch of the editorial pages of The New York Times about the release of “nonviolent” drug offenders. However, in the real world, where real people live, drug dealers are not “nonviolent offenders.” All too often drug dealers write the rules of their trade in blood that is spilled in communities such as Nickerson Gardens on a daily basis.

Eric Siddall is a Director with the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.  The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.