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.