As to which of the six candidates emerged as winners, opinions are going to differ.
|The Los Angeles District Attorney candidates' forum took place in crowded|
auditorium of the downtown Japanese American National Museum
APABA President Ed Song moderated the forum, initially calling on each candidate to give a short opening statement. First to speak was Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace. The Dragnet has often commented on Grace's outstanding record of back to back trial victories. However, Grace concentrated instead on the challenges facing Los Angeles with high recidivism and the as yet unknown effects of realignment; the Sacramento solution to prison overcrowding and out of control public expenditure that will dump an estimated 15,000 felons on LA's streets in the next two years as prison ceases to be the penalty for non-violent felons.
If one thing was surprising about Grace's opening statement and, indeed, his responses to questions, it was his low energy delivery. There simply was no passion in what he had to say. It's a pity that Grace didn't tell the audience that he might be a little preoccupied; Grace is in the middle of a complex preliminary hearing on L.A.'s most prolific serial killer, Chester D. Turner, already on death row, who is charged with 4 more murders. The prelim continues Thursday.
Steve Ipsen spoke next. He is a former President of the ADDA, and soon to be a former Deputy District Attorney if the rumors are true. Additionally, Ipsen's use of the past tense when he stated that he was "proud to have been a deputy district attorney for twenty five years," suggests that his time as a prosecutor may indeed be over. His opening statement, as well as his answers, suggested that his candidacy is based on being all things to all felons; tough on violent crime, lenient on violent criminals who get probation rather than prison. It was a confusing and poorly delivered pitch, and one had to wonder whether those applauding his statements had any idea why.
If Grace and Ipsen's openings were disappointments, Alan Jackson probably emerged as the most polished and most prepared candidate. It's no secret that Jackson has carefully planned his campaign for a long time, and the preparation and planning paid off. He was supremely at ease in his delivery, with a well articulated four point plan to take the DA's Office into the future focusing on tackling public corruption, combating gang crime, modernizing prosecution to deal with high-tech crime, and taking steps to prevent youth crime.
Jackson was followed by Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey. She quickly separated herself from the other candidates by standing to deliver her statement. It was a bold move and one that left little doubt that Lacey is seriously committed to the race, and perfectly comfortable in the heat of debate. Lacey's message was, essentially, that her 10 years of experience and achievement in senior management best qualifies her to be the next DA. It was a theme Lacey effectively and consistently returned to during the questions and answer session. Lacey also stamped her authority on the proceedings by openly admonishing Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers for attacking the qualifications of DDAs currently engaged in training law enforcement. It was an attack that most agreed was unwarranted, and perhaps was attributable to a degree of over enthusiasm on Meyers' part.
And so to Danette Meyers. There is no doubt that Meyers is both passionate about her candidacy, and angry at the status quo. She decried hiring and promotion policies based on appearances rather than 'merit,' but did not provide her definition of merit. Meyers vision of her role as DA can, perhaps, best be described as 'combative.' She is not afraid to tackle cops, judges and fellow DDAs who don't see things her way. In many ways Meyers provided much of the same bluster and bravado that could have been expected from City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, if he had the guts to show up.
Last, but by no means least, was Deputy District Attorney Mario Trujillo who opened by condemning the criminal justice system as being "addicted to incarceration." Unlike most of the candidates who discussed realignment, Trujillo clearly has decided that the best plan of action is to work with Sacramento in refining realignment to achieve its stated goals. Trujillo questioned why, if the goal of realignment was to rehabilitate offenders, was the lions share of the budget for realignment being given to the Sheriff's Department? "To hire more cops to arrest and incarcerate more people?" he posited. A good point. Currently, the Sheriff's Department stands to receive $60M from Sacramento under realignment, but only $5.5M will go to community-based programs aimed at rehabilitation. It's an imbalance Trujillo promises to redress if elected.
Although, as previously stated, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich refused to participate in the forum, perhaps in fear of being confronted with his record of failures and broken promises, he did apparently dispatch his City of Los Angeles contract employee Dan Raskov to observe the forum and report back.
Deputy District Attorney Marcus Musante was, as anticipated, in the audience as an observer. Musante announced his candidacy last week, too late to be included in the forum. Musante promises to 'spice up' the race and has launched his campaign website www.MarcusForDA.com. We look forward to more from Marcus at the next forum.
Jackson's performance at the forum was undeniably strong, with Lacey and Trujillo in close contention. The remaining candidates have some catching up to do. Your thoughts?