LOS ANGELES – Today, following the release of Derrick Harris who served 7 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of Armed Robbery, George Gascón released the following statement:
“I congratulate Mr. Harris on his newfound freedom, and commend Jackie Lacey and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office for correcting this horrific injustice. I remain deeply concerned, however, that in spite of receiving nearly 2,000 innocence claims since 2015, DA Lacey’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU) has reviewed just 350 cases and exonerated only four individuals. That is simply unacceptable, and it’s the reason men like Ruben Martinez Jr. spent seven additional years in prison after DA Lacey was notified of his innocence by homicide detectives. That is an injustice of epic proportion.
Despite being the largest DA’s office in the nation, the Los Angeles CRU is staffed with just three attorneys, all of whom are career prosecutors. Best practices dictate that such units be staffed with attorneys who have criminal defense experience, not attorneys who have spent their career pursuing convictions. In comparison, the Brooklyn DA’s office, which serves a population one-fourth the size of LA County, has nine attorneys in their CRU. Philadelphia, serving a population one-fifth the size of LA County, has seven full-time attorneys. Staffing decisions are a reflection of priorities, and District Attorney Jackie Lacey has not made freeing innocent people that were wrongfully convicted a priority. Taking away an innocent person’s liberty is perhaps the greatest injustice of all, and the gatekeepers to our system of justice have a moral obligation to expeditiously right that wrong.
If elected the Conviction Review Unit will be expanded to ensure innocence claims are reviewed expediently and thoroughly. This is yet another area where the District Attorney has shrugged off the sense of urgency that the pursuit of justice fundamentally requires.”
George Gascón is the Democratic Party’s nominee. He is endorsed by the LA Times and the LA Daily News, Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris, U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Governor Gavin Newsom, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors, labor leader and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, and former Chief of the LAPD Charlie Beck. Click here for a full list of his supporters.
Mr. Gascón grew up in Los Angeles after his family immigrated from Cuba. An army veteran, Gascón served as a Los Angeles Police Department Officer for 30 years, rising to the rank of Assistant Chief of Operations. In 2006 he became Chief of Police in Mesa, Arizona, where he stood up to the hateful and anti-immigrant policies of then Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In 2009, then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Gascón Chief of Police. Newsom turned to Gascón again in 2011 when he tapped him to be District Attorney to fill the seat vacated by an outgoing Kamala Harris who had been elected Attorney General. During his tenure Gascón implemented reforms that are being duplicated across the country while overseeing violent crime and homicides drop to rates not seen in 50 years. After being elected to two terms, Gascón returned to Los Angeles to care for his elderly mother and to be closer to his two daughters and grandchildren in Long Beach. Gascón is married to Fabiola Kramsky, a three-time Emmy Award winning journalist and recipient of the “Premio Nacional de Periodismo,” the highest recognition given to journalists in Mexico.