That's the title of an editorial in today's Los Angeles Times. It's subtitled, "L.A. County sent more people to death row in 2009 than Texas. It's a key issue in this race."
Los Angeles County residents look into their magic mirrors and see a humane and enlightened region with pragmatic criminal justice laws, unlike those backward, supposedly execution-crazy folks in places like Texas. The facts state otherwise. While the rest of California condemns felons to death at the same slowing pace as the rest of the nation, prosecutors in Los Angeles seek the death penalty aggressively. This single county sent more people to death row in 2009 than the entire state of Texas.
In November, Californians may consider a ballot measure that would eliminate the death penalty in favor of life-without-parole sentences, a proposal that has polled well but whose prospects remain uncertain in a state that has historically favored capital punishment. Even before then, though, voters in the state's most populous county will choose from among six candidates for district attorney, and the discussion and debate among those candidates, and between them and the voters, will directly affect how this region considers and uses the death penalty. Whether we eliminate capital punishment (and The Times believes strongly that we should) or keep it, county voters deserve to know where the candidates stand on the issue.
The question goes beyond merely who is for it and who is against it. Or even, for that matter, whether any given candidate uses the words that so many prosecutors do when describing who should be sent to death row: only "the worst of the worst."
Will the next Los Angeles County district attorney keep up the current pace of death sentences? The candidates must tell voters — and explain their reasons.
L.A. Weekly posts, "D.A. Debate: Three Prosecutors Duke, As Carmen Trutanich Ducks," by Gene Maddaus.
Three candidates for L.A. District Attorney debated public safety issues on Saturday afternoon. But once again, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich was not among them.
Trutanich, the leading fundraiser in the race, also skipped the first debate, back in November. At the time, he was still claiming publicly that he had not decided whether to run. Now that's he officially in the race, what's his excuse?
In his absence, the other three top contenders had a civil encounter, drawing distinctions on issues like prison realignment, the death penalty, and juvenile justice reform.
This was the first debate since Mario Trujillo dropped out, and his absence leaves a hole at the liberal-reform end of the political spectrum. The remaining candidates are all more conservative, both in terms of policy and their approach.
The closest candidate to Trujillo's views is Danette Meyers, a career prosecutor who has the backing of former District Attorney Gil Garcetti. Meyers has a tough demeanor, emphasizing the number of murder trials and death penalty cases she's prosecuted. But she's also built her campaign around reforming the way the D.A.'s office treats juvenile offenders, arguing that too many are sent to the adult system.
The article also has brief descriptions of the other two candidates, Alan Jackson and Jackie Lace.