L.A. County D.A. candidate details views on drugs, Proposition 36, redemption and fair trials

Jackie Lacey answering questions from one of the panelists.

What was planned to be an ideal occasion for voters to further comprehend the differences in both character and position between the two candidates for Los Angeles County district attorney, ended up being a question and answer session between the panelists, the audience and Jackie Lacey, the current Chief Deputy District Attorney and the only candidate that showed up at the forum held at the Bethel A.M.E. Church of Los Angeles.

Hector Villagra, co-host of the event and Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU-SC), said that Alan Jackson, the other candidate, did not respond to the invitation. “Nevertheless,” he added, “we have set up an empty chair for him.” Although people laughed at Villagra’s remark, it was evident that they were upset. One of the audience members said that he considered Jackson´s behavior “a lack of respect to the community.”

Despite their annoyance, both panelists and the audience took advantage of the opportunity to better understand Ms. Lacey’s position on issues important to the community. Lacey responded to questions on fair drug enforcement, juvenile justice, conditions in county jails, charging, plea bargaining and sentence reform, as well as alternatives to incarceration for nearly two hours.

One of the first points Lacey made was that she is against the legalization of drugs. “For me, it is personal. I have raised a nephew due to drugs making his parents unavailable,” she said.

Her stance on medical marijuana sales is firm. Lacey says that she will prosecute dispensaries. “Dispensaries attract people that are well. Citizens going to dispensaries are on average under 30 years old. Legalizing them will not cure our drug problems.” On this issue, both Lacey and Alan Jackson stand together.

Crime prevention was another important topic raised by Lacey. “Adults have to get involved in the lives of our children. I want to stop kids from getting in crimes before they have committed them.” For the last four years, Lacey has volunteered one lunch hour a week to teach fifth-graders at Lorena Street Elementary School in Boyle Heights about the criminal justice system.

Lacey, second in command to current District Attorney Steve Cooley, also pointed out that unlike her opponent, she supports Proposition 36. Under the current Three Strikes Law, a person convicted of a felony who has two or more prior convictions for serious or violent felonies is sentenced to 25 years to life, regardless of the nature of the latest crime. To trigger the 25-years-to-life term, Proposition 36 would require that the third strike be serious or violent as well. Jackson opposes Prop 36.

Lacey: “I believe in redemption”

Almost half way through the forum Lacey described herself to the audience in one sentence: “I’m all about going after the bad guy but doing it in a fair and square manner.”

Lacey later went on to say that she believes that people have the ability and the right to reform in life. “I believe in redemption and I think that people can reform. You won´t hear that from the other candidate. I can´t give jobs, but if you sincerely want to change, I can create policies to help you leave that way of life.”

Audience member asking the candidate a question.

Once the forum concluded, Intersections asked Lacey to list the most important differences she had with Jackson. This was her response:

“Unlike my opponent, I have knowledge and experience in running the district attorney’s office. I have experience in implementing alternative sentencing courts. I also have experience with implementing training for lawyers, especially with regard to high tech crime. Finally, I am an accomplished litigator. My opponent minimizes that, but the truth is I have been kicking butt just as much as he has in the sense of keeping our community safe.”

If elected, Lacey will be the first woman, the first African American, and the first person who grew up in South L.A. to becomes District Attorney in Los Angeles County.

Who is Alan Jackson?

Born in 1965, Jackson was raised by a single mother in Texas and served as a jet engine mechanic in the United States Air Force. He left his childhood home after earning his B.A. at the University of Texas, Austin, to pursue his J.D. at Pepperdine Law School in California.

He is a seventeen-year veteran prosecutor in the Los Angeles County District Attorney´s Office, and twice named Prosecutor of the Year. As Assistant Head Deputy of the Major Crimes Division, Jackson manages the office’s elite trial teams while prosecuting his own docket of marquee cases.

Many remember him for a high-profile celebrity case he handled which brought him international attention: the successful murder prosecution in 2009, on retrial, of record-producer Phil Spector.

Although Lacey out-polled Jackson by a slender margin in the June primary election, she did not garner the 51 percent of the votes necessary to automatically win the elections. The run off will be held on November 6.

Lacey takes lead in DA race

imageTuesday night’s election gave Leimert Park native and Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey the lead in the race for Los Angeles District Attorney. She will be facing Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson in the November runoff to replace Steve Cooley when he retires.

Lacey got 203,889 votes or 31.9 per cent of the votes, while Jackson picked up 151,199 votes — 23.6 per cent.

L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, who had the most name recognition and had raised the most money – more than $1.1 million in campaign funds – came in third with 142,576 votes, or 22.3 percent, so he’s out of the race.

Lacey was one of five current county prosecutors running to replace Cooley, but she was the only one with his endorsement. She was also endorsed by the Los Angeles Times and City Councilman Bernard Parks.

This morning on her Facebook election page her message was simply “WE DID IT,” along with a graph showing her in the lead.

In a statement, Jackson called the election results a victory over Trutanich, “a politician who was more concerned about winning the next office instead of winning the next case. We were outraised, outspent and outsized by the City Attorney, yet we prevailed because voters clearly want a modern prosecutor not a politician. We look forward to November where voters will once again have a choice to elect a modern prosecutor to lead the District Attorney’s office.”

Race for Los Angeles County DA getting crowded

The election for Los Angeles County District Attorney is still more than a year away, but the race is already starting to shape up. Many people — including current D.A. Steve Cooley himself — may have expected Cooley to be sitting in the California Attorney General’s office by now, but he lost to San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris in the November 2010 election. Cooley has not yet said whether he will run for a fourth term as D.A., only that he would consider seeking reelection if no qualified candidates come forward.

As of March 14, there are five candidates who have officially tossed their hats into the ring. It is believed that L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich will run, but he hasn’t officially declared. All of the declared candidates so far are from the D.A.’s office.

Bobby Grace
image Prosecutor Bobby Grace is the latest candidate to enter the race. He has been in the DA’s office since he graduated from Loyola Law School 23 years ago He is now a prosecutor in the Major Crimes Division. Grace says he has prosecuted more than 60 murder cases. In 1996, while he was in the Hardcore Gang Division, he prosecuted Calvin Broadus (aka Snoop Doggy Dogg) and his bodyguard for murder. In 2002, The Association of Deputy District Attorneys awarded Grace the “Pursuit of Justice Award” for convicting Los Angeles minister Henry Hayes, who was accused of murdering his wife and young daughter.

Alan Jackson

Prosecutor Alan Jackson was the first candidate to declare his candidacy for D.A. He serves as Assistant Head Deputy of the Major Crimes Division. imageIn his 16 years in the D.A.’s office, Jackson prosecuted music producer Phil Specter on murder charges and the accused murderer of high school student Lily Burk. He was named Prosecutor of the Year in 2009 and 2010. He got off to an early start on major fundraising efforts, collecting almost $114,000 in campaign donations in December. However, he is a Republican running in a solidly Democratic county.

Jacquelyn Lacey
Jacquelyn “Jackie” Lacey is the third ranking administrator in the D.A.’s office and thought to be the closest to Cooley. Lacey grew up in the Crenshaw District and attended Dorsey High School, though she now lives in the Northridge area. She has been a prosecutor in the D.A.’s office for 24 years. Her bio says she is spearheading the movement in the D.A.’s office to bring formal leadership training to everyone who supervises prosecutors. If elected, she would be the first African-American and first female D.A. in L.A. County.

Danette Meyers
Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers has been with the D.A.’s office for 24 years. She has served as a prosecutor in the Career Criminal Unit, the Special Trials Division of the Van Nuys Branch Office and the Crimes Against Peace Officers Unit. Meyers is handling the prosecution of Lindsay Lohan on charges of stealing a necklace. Lohan has claimed that Meyers is “out to get” her. In all, Meyers has prosecuted some 200 jury trials. If elected, she would be the first African-American and first female D.A. in L.A. County.
Update March 8: Former DA Gil Garcetti endorsed Meyers calling her “a leader, a visionary and a person who clearly understands and accepts the responsibilities of being the elected district attorney heading an office of 1,000 prosecutors.”

Mario Trujillo
Deputy District Attorney Mario Trujillo is the newest candidate to declare. He made the announcement at the Mexican American Bar Association installation dinner on February 5, where he was honored as Attorney of the Year by the South East District Bar Association. Trujillo lives in Downey; he’s been with the D.A.’s office for 14 years; he now manages the D.A.’s Bellflower Office. He is a former president of the Mexican American Bar Association.

The Los Angeles Dragnet Blog identifies five or six other people who might run, such City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and Former City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. Check out Los Angeles Dragnet for more extensive discussion on the DA race.

The LA Weekly also has coverage of the candidates.