LA County DA candidates square off in KPCC debate
Five candidates running for Los Angeles County district attorney took to the stage of the Crawford Family Forum Tuesday evening to participate in a debate moderated by AirTalk host Larry Mantle, whose questions ranged from the death penalty to recidivism to medical marijuana.
The participating candidates were Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey and deputy district attorneys Alan Jackson, Danette Meyers, Bobby Grace and John Breault III. A sixth candidate, Carmen Trutanich, did not participate in the debate.
On the subject of the death penalty, both Grace and Meyers said they support a proposal to repeal the death penalty. For Grace, however, it is not about having a moral objection to the penalty.
“I agree, everyone who got the death penalty deserved to get the death penalty because they were the worst of the worst,” Grace said. “We are going and telling the taxpayers and voters and, more importantly, the family members of murder victims that they can expect that the person who killed their loved one is going to be executed when the truth is they are more likely to die in prison.”
Though he supports the death penalty, Jackson told the audience that the district attorney’s office should stay away from politicizing law enforcement.
“I don’t believe that the office should ever take a position as an advocate or detractor from something like the death penalty,” Jackson said. “Look, we are in a job that requires us to enforce the law as you the community members decide the law – either through the legislative process or initiative process.”
Asked how the District Attorney’s Office would be different were she to be elected, Meyers said she would urge deputy district attorneys to prosecute only those cases where they know they can secure a conviction. She said she believes that will then focus the office on merit, and not politics.
“When you don’t have it based upon merit, and I’ll tell you that this present administration is not based on merit –you got a problem. You got low-level prosecutors who don’t know what they’re doing,” Meyers said.
Her comments came as Meyers was seated next to Jackie Lacey, District Attorney Steve Cooley’s chief deputy. Lacey is backed by Cooley, the Los Angeles Times and Daily News.
Host Larry Mantle questioned Lacey about a Los Angeles Times article that found she changed her testimony during a county employment dispute. Lacey blamed the lapse on low blood sugar.
“That particular day, I made a mistake. I was not prepared for being on the stand and answering questions,” Lacey said. “Certainly, it was not a good day.”
The candidate who has been with the District Attorney’s Office the longest is Breault, who has been a deputy district attorney for 43 years. Asked about the fact that he is lacking major endorsements, Breault said the campaign is not about impressing big names.
“I’m putting myself out there for the people, not for the people who are the publishers of newspapers, magazines or radio shows,” he said. “Without the endorsements, I’m still running.”