Gun Enhancements Should Not Be Rolled Back Because Victims Are Lucky Enough to Survive

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Gun Enhancements Should Not Be Rolled Back Because Victims Are Lucky Enough to Survive

By Michele Hanisee

Last month, the ADDA exposed how a key witness told outright lies to a state Senate committee while advocating for SB 620, which would eliminate mandatory enhancements for gun crimes. The ADDA showed that the story told about the young criminal whose case supposedly spotlighted the unfairness of enhancements was untrue.

So the bill’s chief proponent, Senator Stephen Bradford, found another criminal whom he could use to “humanize” his argument. Incredibly, Bradford chose as his new poster child an offender named Denzel Demar Crisp, who committed an unprovoked drive-by shooting, firing multiple times into a crowd of strangers and hitting one of them.

What was the motivation for the December 2009 shooting? Well nothing, really.

The evidence showed that Crisp and another man were unable to find a party hosted by a female friend, and walked up to a group of strangers at a different party. When told their friend wasn’t there they left, with no agitated interaction or harsh words exchanged. Minutes later, a car drove by and multiple gunshots were fired at people standing on the street, hitting one person who had just arrived.

Responding police captured Crisp and his friend as they drove away. At trial, each blamed the other for the shooting. But the jury found Crisp to be the shooter based on eyewitness testimony, seating positions in the car, and forensic evidence. They convicted him of discharging a gun from a car and assault with a semi-automatic weapon, and found that Crisp personally discharged a gun and caused great bodily injury.

Amazingly, Bradford wants people to believe that the imposition of a lengthy enhancement on Crisp for firing a gun at a complete group of strangers and striking one is too harsh. The Appellate Court certainly didn’t think it was, writing, “[W]e simply cannot say that a lengthy sentence for a drive-by shooter, who but for grace or luck or divine intervention could have killed the victim or others standing nearby, is cruel and unusual punishment. … We reject Crisp’s invitation to find his sentence grossly disproportionate because his victim recovered and thereby to benefit him because his victim was lucky enough to survive.”

We can’t agree more with the Appellate Court. Unlike Senator Bradford, we don’t believe that someone who shoots and injures another person should be rewarded with a lesser sentence because a victim was “lucky enough to survive.”

Crisp is fortunate his shots didn’t kill the victim or those standing nearby. The punishment he received is a punishment he rightfully earned; his story is no more of a persuasive reason for changing the law than the false story another witness spun on behalf of Bradford’s bill.

Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.
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New Approach to Sex Offenders Registry Deserves Support

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New Approach to Sex Offenders Registry Deserves Support

By Michele Hanisee

California’s current sexual offender registration law is woefully inflexible. A person who engages in a minor offense is treated the same as the worst offender. Most sex crimes in California require lifetime registration regardless of the nature of the crime, age of offender, or risk of re-offending. California is one of the only states to have a universal lifetime registration system.

Lawmakers have introduced legislation to correct this excess. Rather than lumping all sex offenders in the same category, a tiered system would base the duration of registration on the seriousness of the offense. We support this change because it is just and is good public policy.

California’s current sex offender registry includes more than 100,000 people. Many of these are low-level offenders who drain law enforcement resources. Under Senate Bill 421, introduced by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) a new “tiered” system of registration will be enacted. The proposed law would change sex offender registration by requiring convicted sex offenders to register in one of three tiers based on the seriousness of the crime they committed and the risk they pose to the community.

The system would include the following tiers:

  • Tier 1: Misdemeanor and/or non-violent sex offenders are required to register for 10 years.
  • Tier 2: Offenders who have committed serious and/or violent offenses are required to register for 20 years.
  • Tier 3: Violent sex predators and habitual sex offenders will remain on the registry for the rest of their lives.

Those who are required to register would not be automatically removed from the registry once their term ended, but the bill would establish procedures for terminating sex offender registration under specified conditions. Tier three offenders would be able to petition the court to be reduced to tier two. SB 421 also distinguishes juvenile offenders and tailors registration requirements to fit the crime.

Law enforcement has long recognized the flaws in the current system. We support this legislation for a number of reasons. A tiered system based upon the nature of the offense, the age of the offender and the likelihood of re-offense, is just to the offenders and to the public the system is supposed to protect. Reducing the registration requirements for lower level offenders will also allow law enforcement to direct more resources into monitoring high-risk offenders. High-risk offenders will be stringently monitored while low-risk offenders will not be forced to deal with the devastating impact of lifetime registration.

According to testimony from Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Bradley McCartt, 60 percent of law enforcement resources are spent on registering low-level sex offenders instead of monitoring high-risk offenders and solving crimes. “When you have a child who’s been kidnapped and you are trying to solve that crime quickly, you should be able to turn to the sex offender registry to look for suspects,” said McCartt.

The ADDA joins victim rights groups and other law enforcement groups in support of SB 421. We believe the bill will result in a more effective system that focuses attention and resources on high-risk, violent sex offenders and still protects the public.

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

If you have friends who would like to receive future ADDA blogs or our popular Monday Morning Memo, please click here.
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Prop. 57: Criminals Far and Wide Love It

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Prop. 57: Criminals Far and Wide Love It

By Michele Hanisee

The ADDA and prosecutors throughout California have grown hoarse warning about the public safety disaster known as Prop. 57.

But even we didn’t envision that it would actually incentivize crime by luring criminals here from other states. Yet that’s exactly what appears to be happening.

As Torrance police arrested two suspects from Colorado late last month in a vicious home invasion robbery, a private citizen began filming the incident. The citizen asked one of the suspects why he was there. The suspect’s response? “Prop 57.” The inference we must draw is that the thugs came to California to commit their crimes because they counted on lenient punishments under Prop 57 if they were caught.

Prop. 57 will flood our streets with thousands of dangerous criminals released early from prison, a fact that has been made clear as the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has begun publishing the release criteria. Inmates are now 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.

The Prop 57 campaign was highlighted by dubious and at times utterly false claims. The most reprehensible of them was that Prop. 57 would make only non-violent felons eligible for early release. This would be true only if you consider “non-violent” to include crimes such as rape, sodomy and oral copulation of an unconscious person or by use of date rape drugs; lewd and lascivious acts with a child aged 14 or 15; and sexual battery of a disabled or mentally incapacitated person.

The gatekeeper on early release is the state parole board, who has enormous and unreviewable discretion over who gets released. Keep in mind, this is the very board that voted to parole cop killer Voltaire Williams, and tried to free two Manson family members and other heinous criminals who deserve to remain behind bars for life.

In our campaign against Prop. 57 we voiced our concerns about the convicted criminals to be released early to our communities. Who knew it would also be a crime magnet, luring criminals from far and wide with its promise of drastically reduced prison sentences if caught and convicted?

Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board member, click here.
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Criminals and Gun Use

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Criminals and Gun Use

By Eric Siddall

What should not be lost in the wake of our article exposing the lies used to manipulate the elimination of mandatory sentences for gun crimes is the cavalier dismissal of victims of gun crime.

As the ADDA detailed in our press release, legislation is moving through Sacramento at record speed which seeks to reduce penalties for using guns in a crime.

Criminals use guns in crimes because they want their victims to know death or physical injury will result if there is no immediate compliance. On the precipice of potential death, the victim is usually alone: no appellate attorneys present to advocate for the victim, no 9th Circuit judge ready to intercede with a stay, no last visit with family and a final meal, just a thug threatening them with death.

We have spoken to countless victims sexually assaulted or robbed at gunpoint. The one common thread is how that one event forever changed their sense of safety and normalcy. They recount how close they felt to death, knowing their life could have been ended on the whim of a criminal who decided they did not want to leave a witness or the victim was not moving fast enough.

Proponents of SB 620 not only had to falsify evidence to make their point, but they also argue that longer sentences do not deter criminals. We disagree. However, even if you don’t believe in its deterrent effect, it serves another purpose-punishment. In fact, in the California Rules of Court list of the “General Objectives of Sentencing,” “protecting society” is the first objective and “punishing the defendant” is the second objective.

We support additional penalties for gun violence because you should get additional time when you rape or rob someone at gunpoint. Is 10 years appropriate punishment for merely using a gun? We say yes. Is 20 years appropriate punishment for firing a gun in commission of a crime? We say yes. Is life appropriate for shooting and killing another while committing a crime? We say yes.

In the age of “criminal social justice reform” and an obsession with serving the “criminogenic needs” of the convicted defendant, “reformers” dismiss punishment as a consequence for the trauma deliberately inflicted on victims and by their words indicate indifference to protecting society.

Typical of this is the ACLU, whose representative testified at the same Senate hearing about how unfair it is to punish somebody with a mandatory 20-year sentence for firing a “warning shot” during a crime. Notwithstanding the fact that I have never seen a case where the criminal is simply firing a warning shot-the ACLU believes it’s unfair to punish a criminal for firing a gun when committing a crime. The ACLU also complained that it was unfair to increase punishment if the gun “accidentally discharged” during the crime. I would advise the ACLU to actually read the statute because it requires the act to be intentional, not accidental.

We expect the wholesale dismissal of victims by the ACLU, whose mission is to lobby in support of those who victimize others. What we do not accept is the continued wholesale dismissal of victims, with the “what is done is done” attitude of lawmakers concerned only with how they can pass more laws to “better the lives” of those who commit crime.

Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board member, click here.

If you have friends who would like to receive future ADDA blogs or our popular Monday Morning Memo, please click here.
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Outright Lies Grease Passage of Bill That Eliminates Mandatory Gun Enhancements

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Outright Lies Grease Passage of Bill That Eliminates Mandatory Gun Enhancements

By Michele Hanisee & Eric Siddall

Regardless of how you feel about the legislation, we are disturbed, and every legislator should be disturbed, that a witness called to testify in support of Senate Bill 620 told multiple lies to the California Senate. Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition sat next to the bill author, Senator Steven Bradford, as she addressed the Public Safety Committee on April 25, 2017. McGill claimed, “one case in particular, stands out” to exemplify the unfairness of mandatory gun enhancements and then detailed the “facts” of a robbery case involving Travis Manning.

Ms. McGill testified that Manning was a 19-year-old man who had never been arrested. According to McGill, he entered a GameStop, asked for a $100 game while holding a BB gun, and then took the same game back to GameStop a month later, not understanding the consequences of his act. McGill claimed the sentencing judge “stated under California law he could not make any adjustments due to Travis’ cognitive disabilities or his lack of a past criminal record.” PBS NewsHour, relying upon McGill and Senator Bradford’s information, repeated these statements in a story where Manning was made the “poster child” for SB 620.

The actual facts show McGill lied to the Senate Committee. On the day he robbed the GameStop, Manning was a 23-year-old convicted felon. His criminal history included possession of cocaine base for sale. The jury found — and it was affirmed on appeal — that Manning pulled out and cocked a real gun while committing the robbery. Manning did not request a “$100 game” as McGill testified but demanded and received a Wii console, games, accessories, as well as the $600-700 in the cash register.

Ms. McGill also did not tell the truth about Manning’s actions after the robbery. He did not take the “same game” back to GameStop. Instead, on two separate occasions Manning sold portions of the stolen loot to another GameStop store. This was not a misunderstood youth. Mr. Manning was a felon who after committing robbery then committed a burglary by entering a business to sell property he had stolen at gunpoint. The connection was finally made when the store clerks from two different locations independently identify Manning.

Finally, Ms. McGill was dishonest in her description of the judge’s remarks which she embellished to support her key point–that inflexible sentencing laws led to Manning’s sentence. Clearly the judge never claimed he could not adjust the sentence despite Manning’s “lack of a past criminal record,” since Manning did have a prior record at the time he committed the robbery. Mr. Manning was on active probation with a prior felony conviction (Case number MA029937) when he committed the robbery and that led to his being charged and convicted of being a felon with a firearm. (Case number TA095435)

Equally importantly, the sentence length proved McGill was dishonest when she purported to quote the judge. This is the point that first caused us to take notice of her claims. As Ms. McGill was weaving her tale about the judge’s statement, anybody who understands sentencing laws (be they prosecutor, defense attorney, or legislator sitting on the Public Safety Committee) should have instantly recognized without even knowing the facts of the case that McGill’s tale did not ring true.

The sentence length for the crimes charged reflected that the judge had selected the longer of possible terms for Manning’s sentence. California law allowed the sentencing judge to run Manning’s convictions for two robberies and a burglary concurrently, resulting in a shorter prison sentence than the 18 years imposed. Instead, the sentence length reflected consecutive sentences, emphatically disproving McGill’s recitation that the sentencing judge stated California law precluded a reduced sentence length.

We believe that McGill’s misstatements were deliberate and calculated. According to her own words when she testified, she was involved in the Manning case before his trial and sentencing. Ms. McGill stated to the committee that she helped Manning get a new lawyer pending trial, “packed the court,” and coordinated the presentation of “several powerful testimonies” at sentencing.

It is shocking that Ms. McGill felt comfortable sitting next to Senator Bradford while calmly uttering false statements during public testimony to a Senate Committee. Also alarming is that when the ADDA contacted PBS reporter Kamala Kelkar to request a correction of her inaccurate story, we were informed that Senator Bradford’s office repeated McGill’s false statements about Manning, including the absurd claim that he had no prior record. Didn’t the Senator or anybody on his staff wonder how Manning was convicted of being a felon in possession of a gun if he had never been convicted of a prior felony? Why didn’t the Senator or his staff verify any of the facts of the case they chose to use as the “poster child” for the need to overturn mandatory gun enhancements? The information is, after all, public record.

Criminal justice reform advocates who wish to take the system to task should remember that in criminal trials, the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, and that everything is documented in the public record. If you misrepresent the facts that are in the public record, we will know. This sordid episode points out the need for legislators and the media to carefully vet the stories and ideas being peddled in furtherance of “criminal justice reform.”

Michele Hanisee is President and Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board member, click here.

If you have friends who would like to receive future ADDA blogs or our popular Monday Morning Memo, please click here.
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A Small Victory for Justice

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A Small Victory for Justice

By Michele Hanisee

A judge has dismissed one of the lawsuits aimed at thwarting the will of voters who last fall passed Prop. 66, the sweeping death penalty reform initiative.

The lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Northern California aimed to delay the resumption of executions by challenging the state’s process for establishing execution procedures. It claimed that under the state Constitution, the Legislature rather than the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has the authority to set execution protocols.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Colwell disagreed in a decision released earlier this week.

“The CDCR is arguably the best institution to be tasked with monitoring the development of new injections and monitoring the pain, speed, and reliability of executions as they are carried out in other states,” she wrote.

However, the ACLU lawsuit was not the only challenge to Proposition 66, which preserved the death penalty for the most heinous criminals by enacting critically needed reforms to the system.

As soon as Prop. 66 passed, its opponents, vanquished at the ballot box, rushed to court to block the initiative. The California Supreme Court stayed the initiative pending its review of the lawsuit.

“>The lawsuit falsely claims that Prop. 66 would disrupt the courts, cost more money and limit inmates’ ability to appeal. In fact, it does the exact opposite.

Among other things, it requires that a defendant sentenced to death be appointed a lawyer at the time of sentencing, ensuring the appeal will be heard sooner. Furthermore, it will allow the CDCR to reduce the cost of housing death-row inmates.

These reforms are badly needed. Over the years, a death sentence in California has morphed into a de facto sentence of life in prison. California has not executed an inmate since 2006, and the death row population has soared past 700, making it the largest in the country.

Despite this week’s legal victory, proponents of a fair and equitable death penalty system still have a number of battles to fight.

The ACLU has vowed to appeal Judge Colwell’s ruling. And the other lawsuit challenging Prop. 66 is still pending before the California Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for 9:30 a.m., June 6th in Los Angeles.

The ADDA and our public safety partners worked hard to secure the passage of Prop. 66. We will continue to vigorously support efforts to defeat the frivolous lawsuits, and we will keep you updated on all developments concerning this critical issue.

Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board member, clickhere.

If you have friends who would like to receive future ADDA blogs or our popular Monday Morning Memo, please click here.
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Note the Missing Word……Victims

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Note the Missing Word……Victims

By Eric Siddall

As crime rates rise and victims continue to be marginalized by some state legislators, the Los Angeles Times again provided a “criminal justice reform” advocate with a platform to expound on how the system is too harsh. This time it was Fordham law professor John Pfaff, who blamed budgetary incentives and the dark forces of prosecutors as reasons why criminal punishments are not lessened.

Pfaff’s uses nearly 1,000 words to explain his position. Oddly, considering the subject matter, one word is missing-victim. Not once did Pfaff mention victims of crime. This is not surprising. The new “criminal justice reform” movement is based upon the supremacy of the criminal at the expense of the victim.

Pfaff’s dismissal of victims can be seen in his false claim that there is “little to no evidence” that Prop 47 has led to an increase in crime. The facts, as documented in an FBI report (See Investor’s Business Daily), are that since the passage of Prop 47, California’s crime rate skyrocketed while the rest of the country experienced a minor uptick. A Washington Post story called Prop. 47 “A virtual get-out-of-jail-free card” and detailed how the law keeps “addicts out of jail, but not out of trouble.” Of course, to Pfaff the victims whom those numbers represent are insignificant statistics.

Likewise, Pfaff falsely claimed that Whittier Police Chief Jeff Piper blamed the murder of Officer Keith Boyer on Prop 47. What Chief Piper correctly stated was that “We keep passing laws that keep raising crime. We have to think about what we are doing to our communities and officers by putting these kinds of people back on the street.” The accuracy of his statement was explained in detail by a blog by the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and an op/ed authored by the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association.

The professor makes other specious arguments, such as claiming that counties are incentivized to increase incarceration rates to get more state money. Apparently, Professor Pfaff does not know that our state constitution requires the state to reimburse counties for state mandates. Nor does he know that the state actually has a poor track record on fully reimbursing the counties and makes a practice of shifting costs to the counties to balance the state budget. He makes an equally absurd and contradictory claim that prosecutors charge felonies to send defendants to state prison so that the local county does not need to pay for the local jail.

Mr. Pfaff blames prosecutors for opposing lenient sentencing laws. On this point he is correct. We oppose reduced sentences for those who victimize our communities. We honor the mandate of our state constitution-Article 1, Section 28, the Victim’s Bill of Rights-which was passed by the voters by an overwhelming 83 percent. We continue to believe that the virtue of our system is that it protects victims while ensuring that defendants are given their constitutional protections. However, we will never accept the position of dystopians like Mr. Pfaff who are determined to give violent criminals the moral high ground and equate their position with those of the people they victimize.

Note: Eric Siddall is a graduate of the Fordham University School of Law. He is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board member, click here.
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We Told You So

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We Told You So

By Michele Hanisee

The truths we told about which inmates Prop. 57 would allow to be released years early is now slowly but surely being substantiated. The latest and unlikely source: the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), sex offenders and their advocates.

Gov. Jerry Brown and the supporters of his inmate-freeing ballot initiative insisted only “non-violent” felons were eligible for early release. The ADDA and prosecutors throughout the state repeatedly warned this was a farcical claim because the initiative never defined what offenses qualified as “non-violent,” leaving a legal presumption that any crime not defined as “violent” would meet the qualification-including a host of reprehensible sex crimes.

Those sex crimes include rape, sodomy and oral copulation of an unconscious person or by use of date rape drugs, and lewd and lascivious acts with a child aged 14 or 15. We highly doubt the victims of such crimes, or any rational person would agree they were non-violent. Also in the “non-violent” column: possession of child pornography, contacting a minor with the intent to commit a sex offense, and sexual battery of a disabled or mentally incapacitated person.

Nevertheless, during the campaign Brown and his allies continued to unconscionably perpetuate the lie that only non-violent offenders would get an early release under the initiative. Their tactic – and the $14 million they spent pushing their charade – proved to be successful. California voters approved the initiative by nearly a two-thirds margin in November.

However, now that the initiative is law, application of its provisions has revealed the truth Prop 57 proponents worked so hard to hide. CDCR passed regulations last month to implement the initiative. Those regulations define as a “non-violent” offender, an inmate who is serving a sentence on both a violent and a non-violent felony. So the message to criminals is-if you are going to commit a violent crime, make sure to commit a non-violent crime at the same time so you can be eligible for early release!

During the campaign period, when it was pointed out to the governor that the law would allow early release of sex offenders, the governor responded by promising that CDCR would write the regulations to make sure sex-offenders weren’t released early. “That won’t fly,” we said. “The language of the law allows them to be eligible and they will sue you if the regulations say different,” we said. So, it came as no surprise to learn that, sex offenders and their advocates (amazingly, they have advocates!) are screaming bloody murder at their exclusion and have filed a lawsuit to block the CDCR’s attempt to exclude them from the early release provisions.

We certainly don’t support the sex offender lawsuit. However, their filings expose the falsity of the statements of the Prop 57 proponents who knew their measure would not pass if voters were told the truth. The selling of Prop 57 was based on convincing the voters that it was carefully crafted to apply to a limited group of inmates who hadn’t committed the most terrible crimes.

Now we know-it applies to inmates imprisoned for violent felonies and for life sentences. The question remaining is what will the Legislature, or the Governor do once the courts confirm that the initiative’s early release provisions also apply to those imprisoned for despicable sex crimes.

Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board member, click here.
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AB 359: A Quietly Lurking Threat to Prosecutors Throughout California

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AB 359: A Quietly Lurking Threat to Prosecutors Throughout California

By Michele Hanisee

Some threats to public safety are obvious, such as Prop. 47 and Prop. 57. They were high-profile initiatives that received plenty of public attention and debate.

Other efforts to change the criminal justice system appear to be well meaning, but contain consequences that reveal both a misunderstanding of how the system operates and are ill considered in their scope. Take, for example, Assembly Bill 359.

AB 359 would require prosecutors to disclose information about in-custody informants that would be devastating to investigations and potentially deadly to the informants themselves. However, while the bill would hamstring prosecutors statewide, it has received virtually no public attention since Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer introduced it earlier this year.

Under AB 359, prosecutors would have to reveal information about other cases in which the informant is providing testimony, cases in which the informant was a victim, and the informant’s criminal, substance abuse and mental health histories, among other things.

So, what’s wrong with providing information that could shed light on an informant’s credibility? Plenty, actually.

If the informant had helped identify a murderer in a case that went cold, prosecutors would have to disclose that fact. This would forever compromise the cold-case investigation and pose an enormous safety risk to the informant.

But the problems don’t stop there. AB 359 would also require disclosing whether the informant is a suspect in any other cases – even if the person is accused of a crime without any legitimate reason. Further, how would a prosecutor know if the informant was a suspect without a law enforcement agency informing the prosecutor of that fact? In the real world, detectives and officers are not constantly phoning prosecutors to discuss the status of their investigation on any open case. And, of course, if the informant is a suspect but no charges have been filed, the informant has thereby been alerted and the investigation compromised.

Furthermore, the bill would require information about the informant to be presented to the defense at least 30 days before the preliminary hearing. This is mathematically impossible because preliminary hearings in California are by law set within 10 days of a defendant’s arraignment and not-guilty plea.

Lastly, revealing information about an informant’s substance abuse or mental health histories would pose privacy issues, and likely run afoul of medical privacy rights. It is unclear, as well, how prosecutors would be able to determine whether the informant had any such problems in his or her past unless the informant voluntarily disclosed those facts.

Finally, AB 359 as written would force prosecutors to forever follow informants to determine if they are ever again arrested and if they provide information in a later case. This would impose colossal financial and logistical burdens on the offices of district attorneys statewide.

The ADDA is by no means questioning Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer’s motivations. There have been well-documented problems with the use of jailhouse informants in certain cases, and we can only assume he sincerely wants to address those issues.

But that doesn’t change the fact that his bill is both misguided and fatally flawed.

Given the bill’s relative anonymity, it is critical that we do everything we can to shed light on its devastating effects. You can start by writing to Assemblyman Jones-Sawyer using this link.

We also can encourage everyone we know to do the same. Defeating – or at a minimum modifying – this bill will require a consummate grass-roots effort.

The ADDA will play a leading role in this endeavor.

Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board member, click here.
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Cop Killer to be Released

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Cop Killer to be Released

By Michele Hanisee

Despite objections from countless law enforcement organizations, Voltaire Williams who is serving a life sentence for his critical role in the 1985 assassination of LAPD Detective Thomas Williams (no relation) was granted parole on May 2nd, by a three-person panel from the Board of Parole Hearings.

Voltaire Williams, who has spent the last 32 years in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to murder Detective Williams will now be released on parole. The decision, made after Governor Jerry Brown requested the Parole Board to reconsider an October, 2016 grant of parole for Williams, reinforces the fact that the Parole Board is determined to release life sentence inmates regardless of their dangerousness to society.

Inmate Williams was a key participant in what has been described as one of the worst murder plots in Los Angeles history; the killing of LAPD Detective Thomas Williams to prevent him from testifying in an upcoming criminal case. Inmate Williams was supposed to shoot Detective Williams himself. When the person who had hired him decided to commit the murder on his own, Williams chose not to inform authorities. Detective Williams was picking up his six-year-old son Ryan from church school when the shooter opened fired with a Mac-10 assault rifle. Williams barely had time to tell his son to duck before he was struck by the hail of bullets that also penetrated classroom walls.

Governor Brown asked the Parole Board to reconsider the earlier parole grant, citing Williams’s minimization of his role in the crime and his lack of appreciation of the magnitude of the crime and its effect upon the community. Deputy District Attorney Lawrence Morrison highlighted these concerns before the Parole Board, as well as the inmate’s lengthy history of lying to prior parole panels on key points of his actions during the conspiracy. Morrison further pointed out to the Parole Board, Williams’ failure to acknowledge his active involvement in two separate conspiracies to murder, and the board’s reliance on incomplete psychology reports predicting a low risk of future violence.

None of this mattered to the Parole Board, which operates behind prison walls outside the eye of the public. It is clear that in their minds, when an inmate has served a certain portion of their sentence they should be released, and any future harm they cause can be dealt with via a new prosecution. A rubber stamp could hardly do worse.

Michele Hanisee is President of the =Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. To contact a Board member, click here.
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