Is Justice Color-Blind?

Editor’s note: This is an interesting exchange. Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson took exception to comments made by Contra Costa Public Defender Robin Lipetzky and Deputy Public Defender Brandon Banks at a noon time rally that featured public defenders protesting justice conditions. Christopher C. Hite is a deputy public defender in San Francisco and co-chair of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Racial Justice Committee writes a response.

Open Letter by Mark A. Peterson, Contra Costa County District Attorney

Last week, at a noontime rally, Contra Costa Public Defender Robin Lipetzky and Deputy Public Defender Brandon Banks made several allegations about racial injustices that supposedly exist within our local criminal justice system.  As the chief law enforcement official in this county it’s my duty to respond to the Public Defender’s inaccurate statements:

Last Thursday, the Public Defenders hurled a series of defamatory accusations at our hardworking prosecutors, at our superior court judges, at our Probation Department, and at our Sheriff.  I must respond to those unfair, unsubstantiated, and misleading charges.

The Public Defenders alleged that black men are charged with felonies instead of misdemeanors, suggesting that those decisions are racially biased.  That suggestion is absolutely false. We don’t consider race in our charging decisions.  We file the charges supported by the evidence, against whoever committed the crime, no matter their race.  The Public Defenders alleged that young men of color are charged with gang crimes because of the neighborhood where they grew up.  That statement is also patently false.  Our office files those type of charges if warranted by the evidence, and gang charges are required to be proven in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt.

If the Public Defenders believe that our office’s decision to file felonies instead of misdemeanors, and our filing of gang allegations, is racially biased, they can certainly challenge our charging decisions in court by alleging discriminatory prosecutions.  In fact, I’ve seen them raise this complaint multiple times in my 30 year career, but not once have they ever convinced a neutral judge that it has actually occurred.  We train, teach, and practice the notion of colorblind justice, because all lives matter.   

The Public Defenders further asserted that black suspects remain incarcerated before trial because the courts set bail that only the very wealthy can afford. That’s a gross mischaracterization of what occurs.  The Superior Court uses a bail schedule that’s based solely on the seriousness of the charges, not the wealth of the accused.  Bail is set at high amounts when the offenders pose a risk to the community’s safety. That’s because all lives matter.

In fact, the judges of the Superior Court and the District Attorney’s office have been working together for several months with the Public Defender’s Office to improve the bail system by utilizing a “risk assessment tool” regarding releases from custody, rather than just bail amounts.  Not surprisingly, the Public Defender failed to mention this fact in her statement.  

The Public Defender insinuated that there’s systematic exclusion of jurors occurring, based solely upon the color of their skin.  That claim has been made and the issue has been litigated thoroughly, many times in the course of my 30 year career.  Not once during that period have they ever prevailed in court.  Our state Court of Appeal has ruled repeatedly, that no systematic exclusion has, or is occurring, in Contra Costa County.  The Public Defender failed to mention this fact in her statement.  

The Public Defender suggested that people of color are over-represented in our jails. The fact is the jails are populated disproportionately by those who commit the most serious crimes.  Unfortunately, it’s a sad fact that these crimes are perpetrated disproportionately by poor people of color, and it’s equally true that these violent crimes are perpetrated disproportionately upon poor people of color.  The solution to this sad problem isn’t to inaccurately blame racial bias by law enforcement, such as the Sheriff’s Office which operates our jails, as the cause.    

The Public Defender stated that juvenile offenders of color are shackled in public and “paraded” across the street, and it’s disparate treatment of them based upon their race, by the probation officers who escort them.  In fact, juvenile offenders of all races are sometimes led into court here in downtown Martinez when there’s insufficient capacity to have their cases heard out at Juvenile Hall.  This occurs because the law requires that juveniles be incarcerated and brought to court separately and apart from adults.  You can only imagine the howls of protest that would emanate from Public Defender Lipetzky if the Probation Department tried to have their juvenile offenders use the underground tunnel that’s used daily to transport adult offenders from the jail to the criminal courthouse.  The sad fact is that the County’s over-stretched budget currently lacks the ability to fund a multi-million dollar juvenile detention facility adjacent to the jail in downtown Martinez.  If Public Defender Lipetzky wishes to donate a portion of her department’s budget to fund such a facility, I urge her to do so. 

The Public Defender claimed that our office treats black suspects differently in our criminal filing decisions, and infer that black lives don’t matter to us.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  During the last four years our office has filed tens of thousands of criminal cases. The Public Defender cannot cite even one case where charges were filed based upon the race of the suspect.  Shame on her for her bald faced lie. 

All lives matter.  The life of every citizen – regardless of color – matters.  That’s why we work tirelessly to obtain justice for crime victims.  The harsh reality, and what truly needs to be addressed, is that people of color are more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than others.  Those of us in law enforcement work daily to protect everybody, including those of color who are victimized disproportionately.  94% of African American homicide victims are killed by African Americans.  In fact, Malcolm X declared: ”I don’t think there is anything more destructive than black people killing each other.”  When we struggle to bring justice to the family members of slain African Americans, we do so because all lives matter. 

In fact, since I took office as District Attorney in 2011, our office, along with the Sheriff’s Office, the Probation Department, and local law enforcement have redirected a tremendous amount of our resources into trying to reduce violent crime in minority neighborhoods.  That violent crime primarily involved the African-American community.  Young black men were shooting other young black men.  We helped to implement the Ceasefire Program, a community based program, designed to stop men of color from murdering other men of color. 

The very good news is that we have made considerable progress.  While Richmond has suffered 14 homicides this year, it is down from a recent high of 49 in 2009.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of those homicides involved African-American victims.  Our office is committed to making certain all black lives matter, including the victims of murder and other crimes, and not just the individuals accused of those crimes.  While our office and law enforcement work together to charge and to convict the individuals responsible for these murders, the Public Defender’s goal is to free these accused killers from custody. The public can decide who is more committed to making certain black lives matter.    

Perhaps most corrosive of all, however, is the Public Defender’s assertion that their clients of color receive disparate treatment by our county judges. That’s simply not true.  In fact, the public defenders cannot cite a single case where a judge issued a ruling against an individual simply based on his or her race.  Interestingly, the latest census figures reveal that 9.6% of this county’s residents are African-Americans, whereas 13% of our county’s superior court judges are African-Americans.  The Public Defenders have maligned the entire bench of hardworking jurists who work every day to dispense justice in a colorblind manner.

Attorneys in our office are ethically prohibited from taking race into account in any of our prosecutorial decisions.  We provide constant training from experts inside and outside our office to ensure that our prosecutors operate at the highest ethical levels.  Our prosecutors operate every day by the credo, “Seek Justice, Serve Justice, Do Justice,” and they work long hours with below average pay in order to vindicate victims’ rights in order to protect our community.   

Our prosecutors are charged with seeking justice in each and every case, and to do so in a colorblind fashion.  They’ve got an ethical duty to protect not only society, but also to protect the constitutional and statutory rights of those whom they prosecute.  Our superior judges likewise work each and every day to dispense colorblind justice.  Neither of those parties – prosecutors or judges – have the luxury of the Public Defenders, whose sole duty is to the criminals whom they’re paid to represent.  It must be easy for the Public Defenders to stand on the courthouse steps and hurl false, racially charged accusations.  Meanwhile, our prosecutors, our judges, our probation officers, and our peace officers have been going about their daily business, working to provide colorblind justice in the service of public safety here in Contra Costa County. 

I am well aware of the very public discussion of race and the criminal justice system.  However, the Public Defender‘s false, insulting, and inflammatory comments do nothing to positively contribute to that dialogue.  When false accusations are thrown about in public, no one is well-served.  Instead, I happen to agree with New York Police Commissioner William Bratton who said “Reducing crime helps to reduce racism.”  That is one of the reasons why our office is working so hard to reduce crime.  Let me assure everyone that black lives matter to all of us involved in the criminal justice system in Contra Costa County.  This is shown by the work our employees and agencies do each and every day.  In fact, a more accurate statement is that “All Lives Matter.” 

Contra Costa DA’s Race-Blind Claim Doesn’t Bear Scrutiny

By Christopher C. Hite

Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark A. Peterson’s rebuke of Public Defender Robin Lipetzky for bringing up racial disparities in the criminal justice system evokes a famous line from Hamlet. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “The (prosecutor) doth protest too much, methinks.”

Peterson’s angry, multi-page letter and press release in response to Bay Area public defenders holding “Black Lives Matter” rallies claims there is no racism in the criminal justice system, at least in Contra Costa County.

But his claim ignores overwhelming statistical evidence showing African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to be arrested, convicted and more harshly sentenced than their white counterparts.

Peterson’s missive reads like a frightening laundry list of preconceived notions that stand in the way of equal justice under the law.

He boldly asserts that all decisions by police officers, district attorney, and judges are race neutral. He offers that the reason behind more black people in prison is because they are committing more crimes against other black people.

But decades of studies show otherwise. Blacks and Latinos make up 58 percent of all prisoners yet only 25 percent of the American population. Despite similar drug usage rates across all races, people of color are more likely to be prosecuted and receive harsher sentences for a drug-related crimes.

In 2012, economists and law professors at Harvard, the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania published a study that found black defendants receive longer prison sentences than their similarly situated white counterparts.

They also determined that African-Americans are far more likely to be arrested than white Americans, that “judges take race into account in their sentencing decisions” and that “the magnitude of this effect is substantial.” The statistics go on.

Peterson also seems to think that the high rate of black-on-black crime somehow is different from that of white-on-white crime rate. It is not.

Whites kill other whites at a rate of 84 percent. Furthermore, that there is a high black-on-black crime rate does nothing to diminish the fact that young black men are 21 times as likely as their white peers to be killed by police.

The demonstrations across the country, including those held by Bay Area public defenders, are a response to this stark disparity. Bringing up black-on-black crime is a distraction from the real work of improving our justice system.

The first step to eliminating racial disparities is recognizing the problem and being willing to address it.

In San Francisco, the district attorney is taking a proactive approach by partnering the Vera Institute to conduct an internal evaluation of how race affects charging decisions.

The San Francisco Public Defender is engaged in a similar study with the Quattrone Center at the University of Pennsylvania Law School to examining everything from traffic stops to plea agreements.

If Peterson truly cares about eliminating racism, he should do the same.

An independent, objective, and comprehensive study would go a long way in determining whether or not there is room for improvement.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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41 Comments

  1. LadyNewkBahm

    “But his claim ignores overwhelming statistical evidence showing African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to be arrested, convicted and more harshly sentenced than their white counterparts.”

    “But decades of studies show otherwise. Blacks and Latinos make up 58 percent of all prisoners yet only 25 percent of the American population. Despite similar drug usage rates across all races, people of color are more likely to be prosecuted and receive harsher sentences for a drug-related crimes.”

    No, he didn’t ignore any of that in his statements. His answer was simply an inconvenient truth: “94% of African American homicide victims are killed by African Americans.,

    the public defender is ignoring the fact that African Americans are disproportionately committing these crimes in high numbers, hence the 58 percent claim.

    Put another way. If blacks make up 10 percent of the poplulation it doesn’t stand to reason the same proportion would be in prison if they are committing crimes in substantially higher numbers. That is what the defender is conveniently leaving out.

    it also stands to reason that if blacks are indeed committing crimes in these numbers against other blacks, they are also going to have a high rate of interactions with the police.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “the public defender is ignoring the fact that African Americans are disproportionately committing these crimes in high numbers, hence the 58 percent claim.”

      yeah but it’s interesting to me that you didn’t look to see whether the incarceration rate is disproportionate to the crime rate – and that’s the rub – it is by perhaps 20%, maybe higher.  why?  all things being equal, blacks committing the same crime are more likely to be charged more, more likely to be found guilty or plead guilty and more likely to be sentenced to a longer term.  the crime statistics that argue otherwise has committed a catastrophic error of including hispanics as whites and therefore distorting the racial effect.

      1. LadyNewkBahm

        “it is by perhaps 20%, maybe higher.”

        perhaps? maybe?

        “why? all things being equal, blacks committing the same crime are more likely to be charged more,”

        trouble in this world is not all things are necessarily equal.

         

      2. Frankly

        it is by perhaps 20%, maybe higher.  why?

        That is the question we should be exploring and answering before making accusations of racism in our criminal justice system.

        all things being equal,

        All things are not equal.  The data has not been sufficiently controlled for.   As I pointed out, a much higher percentage of blacks live in high crime areas.   If you live in a higher crime area (that is more crime per population) there is greater risk that you will be caught in a criminal act (because law enforcement concentrates where the crime is occurring because they get called to the scene) and greater probability that you will be involved in crime.

        The data needs to be controlled by geographic areas of high and low crime.  Once that is done I would bet that the over-representation of blacks in crime and punishments falls to a very small percentage that can be explained by bias… but again, not “overwhelming”… it would be a very small statistical indicator that we have some continued work to do to eliminate racial bias.

        1. Davis Progressive

          “As I pointed out, a much higher percentage of blacks live in high crime areas.”

          actually you didn’t point it out, you just asserted it and when you were asked for numbers, you didn’t provide them.

          i’m also not convinced your point is that valid.  for example, davis is a low crime area and yet the statistics on police stops show blacks are disproportionately stopped.

        2. Frankly

          A study of Columbus neighborhoods found that violent crime rates in extremely disadvantaged white neighborhoods were very similar to rates in comparable Black neighborhoods.

          The violent crime rate in highly disadvantaged Black areas was 22 per 1,000 residents, not much different from the 20 per 1,000 rate in similar white communities.

          There are still many people who mistakenly believe there is something about Black neighborhoods that make them more violent and prone to crime, said Lauren Krivo, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

          Our research shows that neighborhoods with the most crime tend to be those with the highest rates of poverty and other types of disadvantage — regardless of whether they are predominantly Black or white.

          In this study, overall rates of violence were nearly three times as high in Black neighborhoods as in white neighborhoods. But thats because Black neighborhoods are much more likely than white ones to be highly disadvantaged, she said.

          Krivo conducted the study with Ruth Peterson, a professor of sociology at Ohio State. Their study was published in the current issue of the journal Social Forces.

          “for example, davis is a low crime area and yet the statistics on police stops show blacks are disproportionately stopped.”

          Where is the data for this?

          First point, it is “stopped” not crime and punishment statistics.

          And second point.  Davis is known to be a clubbing scene and draws people from surrounding areas.  How many of these “stops” were people from out of town… changing the demographic make up of the concentration of people around town at night when most stops occur?

        3. TrueBlueDevil

          But if this were the case all of the time, wouldn’t the violent crime rate closely mirror the poverty rate by ethnicity? I don’t think it does.

        4. Davis Progressive

          A study of Columbus neighborhoods found that violent crime rates in extremely disadvantaged white neighborhoods were very similar to rates in comparable Black neighborhoods.

          The violent crime rate in highly disadvantaged Black areas was 22 per 1,000 residents, not much different from the 20 per 1,000 rate in similar white communities.

          Violent crime rates were lowest in those neighborhoods with low disadvantage, regardless of whether they were predominantly Black or white. Extremely disadvantaged neighborhoods had violent crime rates that were 16.3 per 1000 higher than rates in low disadvantage neighborhoods.

          The results showed that extremely disadvantaged Black neighborhoods still had slightly higher violent crime rates than did similar white neighborhoods. One possible reason may be that the Black neighborhoods in this study are still more disadvantaged than the comparable white neighborhoods, Krivo said.

           

          In addition, the highly disadvantaged Black neighborhoods were more likely than the white neighborhoods to be grouped together, which may intensify the negative effects.

          http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/badcomm.htm

        5. Davis Progressive

          “Where is the data for this?”

          you’ll have to search the vanguard, it was published there a few years ago.  i couldn’t find it using the search engine though.

          “And second point. Davis is known to be a clubbing scene and draws people from surrounding areas. How many of these “stops” were people from out of town… changing the demographic make up of the concentration of people around town at night when most stops occur?”

          you’re inventing excuses now.

        6. TrueBlueDevil

          Frankly is asking cogent questions, not “inventing excuses”.

          I recall reading up on a number of crimes which happened on the UC Davis campus during the 2011 Whole Earth late-night concert a few years ago. There was a rape, a sexual assault, battery and other crimes. Reading two different articles revealed some patterns. The was larger attendance by young high school students, most of the alleged assailants were either Latino or described as looking Latino, and at least 2 arrested suspects were from Woodland.

          http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/crime-fire-courts/violent-crimes-at-whole-earth-festival-lead-to-dance-venue-shutdown/

           

        7. Davis Progressive

          i was posting it in response to tbd, hadn’t seen your response until after i posted it.  i believe that poverty, not race is the best correlate of prison, but there’s an extra component that race accounts for (why the discrepency is 20% not 100 or 200%).

        8. Frankly

          But if this were the case all of the time, wouldn’t the violent crime rate closely mirror the poverty rate by ethnicity? I don’t think it does.

          TBD – the way I read this is that higher crime rates exist in areas where there are more poor people regardless of race or authenticity.  But as blacks are over-represented in poverty, it makes statistical sense that they are over-represented in crime.

          This study only disproves a direct connection with race and crime.  But it establishes the indirect connection from socioeconomic demographics… this is a nuance without a distinction against my points.  At the same this study is also materially disproves this claim of racial bias in law enforcement and the judicial process.

          It really does frost me that this data is not included from the so called “scientists” making the claim of black over representation in crime being evidence of racial bias.   It is omissions like this that cause me to discount just about every claim of scientists touting their “facts.”

          Here is the other thing… common sense rules, and this study make complete common sense.

          I think there are people so vested in the “cops and courts and everyone is a racist” narrative that they cannot even bring themselves to connect with their common sense processor.

        9. Tia Will

          Frankly

          it would be a very small statistical indicator that we have some continued work to do to eliminate racial bias.”

          This observation is very much what I was attempting to express when I indicated that even if the effect would not be huge, each self identified group would do better by working on those aspects of change that we can affect. Most commonly, that will be our own behavior.

  2. Tia Will

    The Public Defender insinuated that there’s systematic exclusion of jurors occurring, based solely upon the color of their skin.  That claim has been made and the issue has been litigated thoroughly, many times in the course of my 30 year career.  Not once during that period have they ever prevailed in court. “

    If the Public Defenders believe that our office’s decision to file felonies instead of misdemeanors, and our filing of gang allegations, is racially biased, they can certainly challenge our charging decisions in court by alleging discriminatory prosecutions.  In fact, I’ve seen them raise this complaint multiple times in my 30 year career, but not once have they ever convinced a neutral judge that it has actually occurred. “

    The Public Defender claimed that our office treats black suspects differently in our criminal filing decisions, and infer that black lives don’t matter to us.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  During the last four years our office has filed tens of thousands of criminal cases. The Public Defender cannot cite even one case where charges were filed based upon the race of the suspect.  Shame on her for her bald faced lie. “

    I am not acquainted with any of the details of the police or justice system in Contra Costa County, however, I find the line of reasoning used by Mr. Peterson quite disturbing. He states that within 30 years there have been multiple complaints of discrimination, and yet “not once have they ever convinced a “neutral” judge that it has actually occurred. Really ? Not once in 30 years ? A couple of questions about this. Who gets to decide on the “neutrality” of the judge ? Are the judges determined to be “neutral” those who have worked in close association with the prosecutors and police or are they neutral both judicially and personally ?  Would I have credibility if I said that multiple claims of incompetence or medical errors had been made over a thirty year period and not once had any of these claims been upheld ?  Or would it be at least suspected that at least some of these may not have been covered up by individuals who worked closely with the involved physicians ?

    I find the last quote almost comical. Is Mr. Peterson suggesting that one would ever find a case in which race was specified as the basis for the charge ?  Just because it is not put on paper that race is the reason for discrimination any longer is certainly no proof that it is not the reason.

  3. TrueBlueDevil

    I’m glad to see that David published a full-throated defense of alleged racism.

    It’s also misguided when we see the same focus on potentially very infrequent instances of race being one of many factors, when we have massive proven problems laying at our feet.

    We know that African American men are disproportionately represented in gang membership and activity.

    We know that black families are over represented in many public housing projects, often a vector of illegal activities.

    We know that out-of-wedlock births have become the rule, not the exception; and we know that children with in-the-home Fathers fare far better than those that don’t. Lower school dropout rates, lower gang activity levels, girls postpone the start of their sexual activity several years later as they aren’t seeking external validation, etc.

    Recent California statistics show that truancy rates for black children are disproportionately high.

    There are many other similar issues, and I guess I’d ask our educated populace when this started? I know that some of these indicators have increased since the 1960s and the expansion of liberal programs. But did these issues and crimes exist in the Deep South prior to WWII?

     

  4. Tia Will

    TBD

    All of the problems that you note are acknowledged. However there is little to nothing that members of other ethnic groups can do to alter these particular problems and behaviors. However, what we are able to address is the portion of the problem, however great or small we perceive that to be, that is attributable to our attitudes and behaviors.

    We will be unable to do that effectively until we drop the denial that we may be at least a part of the problem and are willing to address our role.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      Tia wrote: “All of the problems that you note are acknowledged.”

      When? PC Liberalism takes these items off the table. Three of the four I wrote about are rarely mentioned, and even the out-of-wedlock discussion is considered verboten or treated as a little aside, not a fundamental building block of society (marriage).

      Tia wrote: “However there is little to nothing that members of other ethnic groups can do to alter these particular problems and behaviors.”

      There is plenty we can do, with all of the social and government interdiction you’ve advocated, why stop now?

      We can reduce or eliminate the government programs or implementation rules to eliminate what is counter-productive, and to promote healthy choices. But even though there is a strong argument that government programs have helped to destroy the black family, don’t look for any big changes.

      School administrators can make sure that they enforce truancy laws, and emphasize the importance of school attendance to black families. We could also have outreach to black churches, the NAACP, and other such groups. Maybe even Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson can be added to the effort, and if their intentions are sincere, maybe they’ll even mention these items without being paid $$$.

      1. Don Shor

        I suppose it would be politically incorrect to note that ready access to inexpensive birth control for teenage girls would greatly reduce early pregnancy and reduce poverty.

        1. Tia Will

          Don

          I have posted on this a number of times. It is my belief that the LARCs ( long acting reversible contraceptives including DepoProvera, the IUDs, and the Nexplanon ( rod in the arm) should be the first line contraceptive choices for virtually all women and should be free. Birth control pills, the patch and the Nuvaring should also be free.

          If we had a cultural attitude shift that this would be the most effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy and abortions due to the < 1% chance of pregnance per year we would have virtually taken care of this problem and we ultimately greatly reduce poverty. What I would like to see is every girl at the time of onset of her menses be offered the Nexplanon or BCP as the least invasive of these methods.

          Rich has previously posted what I consider a very good idea which would be to offer a financial reward for every year that a girl stays in school and does not get pregnant. I would up the ante and say that the same stipend should be provided to every boy who does not father a child. Surely we could be rewarding the behavior that we want to see rather than punishing and shaming for the behavior that we don’t want.

          I would happily provide my services in placing and prescribing for free and would be willing to spend a least one day weekly doing nothing but placements and training of other health care workers to do the placements. I am sure that there are many of my colleagues who would make the same commitment. But to get to that point, we would need a change in society such that we stop pretending that adolescents and young adults are going to stop having sexual relationships just becasue we think that is a better idea.

           

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          Don, condoms are darn cheap, and many places hand them out for free. Planned Parenthood is also in most urban communities.

          You may not realize that with some bored and / or uneducated youngsters, getting pregnant is a sign of virility / macho, and / or a way to relieve the boredom and “have someone to love me”.

          1. Don Shor

            Condoms are male birth control. Women should have the full power to decide about their own childbearing destiny. But I realize that is a politically incorrect thing to say.

        3. KSmith

          Condoms are cheap, but not necessarily all that effective. The contraception Tia mentions is way more effective and would be the most realistic choice in cutting down on these types of pregnancies.

          Unfortunately, women (and in particular teen girls) won’t have the full choice to decide their own childbearing destiny until people stop pearl-clutching about conctraception. I am right on board with Tia’s idea, but it would take a huge cultural shift to make this widespread and remove the stigma of: using contraception = pre-planning = you’re a slut.

          It’s the 21st century. Let’s get real about sex and just make safe, effective contraception widely available without stigma, see what this does for reducing “out-of-wedlock” pregnancies and the issues that come along with that, and then just keep our snouts out of everyone else’s sexual biz.

           

  5. Anon

    While our office and law enforcement work together to charge and to convict the individuals responsible for these murders, the Public Defender’s goal is to free these accused killers from custody. The public can decide who is more committed to making certain black lives matter.”

    This is a very powerful statement.  Ultimately the Public Defender is biased in favor of the defendant, so of course will file claims of racism or whatever other defense they can think up.  It is their job.  But the public should not be fooled by such defense bias.  The prosecution, on the other hand, has a duty to the people of the state, including the defendant.  For instance, if there is exculpatory evidence, the prosecutor is obligated to turn it over to the defense.  In other words, the prosecutor is not supposed to be in the business of convicting innocent people.  Does it happen?  Yes?  Does it happen too often?  Even once is too often.  Are there prosecutors who are less than ethical?  Yes.  But the very same can be said of public defenders.  However, prosecutors have a higher duty to the public, and that includes a higher duty to the defendant.

    But decades of studies show otherwise. Blacks and Latinos make up 58 percent of all prisoners yet only 25 percent of the American population. Despite similar drug usage rates across all races, people of color are more likely to be prosecuted and receive harsher sentences for a drug-related crimes.”

    I suspect it is far more likely that blacks and Latinos are getting harsher sentences because they cannot afford high-powered attorneys a la O.J. Simpson.  Public defenders coax defendants into taking plea deals, rather than fight the case out in court.  Think about it – public defenders need to take some blame here.  If public defenders truly believe a defendant is innocent, then why coax them into taking a plea deal?

    1. Miwok

      Ultimately the Public Defender is biased in favor of the defendant, so of course will file claims of racism or whatever other defense they can think up.  It is their job

      Very good statement, Anon. It is their jobs. Neither is supposed to interject this type of bias into their job, but the Public Defenders in several towns are doing this, because WHY? They cannot do it in court unless they file something. This is why I disagree with the  “mass incarceration” tab people put on criminals. They all got caught doing something illegal. wrong according to the law. One at a time, they were convicted, maybe after years of plea bargains when the courts said “enough”.

      The Public Defenders are strident because many of them started in the DA office and know what goes on there. Maybe that is what they should point out?

      It is not a TV show, and we all get wrong impressions from those as the REAL criminal is ALWAYS tried and convicted, often while the lawyers in the shows circumvent the law to convict them.

  6. Davis Progressive

    “I suspect it is far more likely that blacks and Latinos are getting harsher sentences because they cannot afford high-powered attorneys a la O.J. Simpson.”

    but they are getting harsher sentences than poor whites who would be in the same boat.

    1. Frankly

      “They’ve only got data on this final slice of the process, but they are still missing crucial parts of the criminal-justice process,” said Sonja Starr, a law professor at the University of Michigan, who has analyzed sentencing and arrest data and found no marked increase in racial disparity since 2005.

      From what I understand, priors are not included in the final dataset.

      And here again, those of that care about the real truth and real facts should be quite PO’ed.

      The data says that Joe Black did the same crime as Joe White, but Joe Black got a steeper sentence and therefor Judge White is a racist.  But the data leaves out the fact that Joe Black had a longer rap sheet and Judge White was constrained by sentencing guidelines because of that rap sheet to throw a bigger book at Joe Black.

      Convenient omission of relevant facts?  I say.

      Instead of calling everyone a racist, why not come out and ask for what we are really talking about… race-based sentencing rules.   Sort of an affirmative-action sentencing framework that gives a black suspect and criminal extra consideration.

      Or maybe we just remove the racial quota stigma and say we assess the economic situation of the criminal to give him extra chances?   Maybe we implement means-tested progressive strikes.   One strike and you are out if you make Bill Gates or Warren Buffet money, seven strikes if you are on welfare and food stamps.

  7. Miwok

    I know from my experience in the years at the DAs office in San Jose, and Sac DA, I was able to ask questions of the people who argued these things. Is there fairness? NO is generally the answer. PDefenders have less than half the attorneys than Prosecutors.

    That scorching letter in “rebuttal” is typical of the anger/zeal I saw in some young prosecutors trying to up their “score” for wins vs losses in court. Anyone with ambition has to put aside fairness and play just as dirty as the criminals to get ahead, in their own office. Truth is a commodity.

    I would have expected a more professional response to display from the Contra Costa DA.

    Personally I hope all the Sheriff and PD start arresting less people, period. Let the pressure build.

    Not so personally, if this is a race thing, then why not set up courts made up of entirely Black constituents? Reading my History, I read where they used to have Miner’s Courts. Citizens got together and made the verdict. I think they will do as well as those. If this is what Blacks want, then let them start this on their own, instead they dial 911 and criticize every action after that.

  8. Tia Will

    TBD

    When? PC Liberalism takes these items off the table. Three of the four I wrote about are rarely mentioned, and even the out-of-wedlock discussion is considered verboten or treated as a little aside, not a fundamental building block of society (marriage).”

    The answer to “when” is for at least the past 40 years and probably far longer. I think your statement is based only on what you would call the “leftist press” which is very far from the totality of these debates which were in full bloom at least when I entered college in 1970 as  a double major in political science and anthropology with the obviously incorrect notion that I would either go into academia or law. In the scholarly literature as well as in the lay press the debates were raging about how much discrimination there was, how much these types of problems are attributable to drugs, crime, family dissolution, economic factors, racism whether overt or covert, or whether as Anon has stated several times may be more dependent on unequal representation based on poverty than on race.

    I prefer to focus on potential solutions than I do on finger pointing. For the past 30 years I have focused on my career and how best to use it to accomplish what I would see as those parts of the solution on which I can have the biggest impact. That has included multiple medical outreaches in terms of student run clinics, migrant camp provision of health care at health fairs and the provision of screenings and contraception to underserved populations. I think that if you were to speak to a large number of professionals, you would find a wide range of volunteer activities engaged in with the hope of helping people who lack access to any number of services and amenities that most of us here in Davis take for granted.

    What I would request from you is what your specific suggestions would be to implement the changes you are suggesting. For example

    1. What specific government programs would you eliminate and how specifically would you meet both the short and long term needs created by the elimination of these programs ?

    2. How would you propose that school officials enforce truancy laws ? What would you have them do ? Expel those children who will not or cannot comply ?

    3. Who is the “we” that you feel should be doing outreach to black churches ? You are aware of course that many cities have major collaborative efforts between the city officials and black leaders, especially clergy, right ? So who is the “we” beyond the current efforts ?

     

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      Step 1 would be to re-introduce the requirement that women who give birth identify the father, so that we can hold them accountable for their child, child support, etc.

      The problem with your logic of “If you eliminate x, what would you replace it with”, is that many of these programs feed on themselves and create their own demand. If a program hasn’t worked, eliminate it! I recall an example where there was a program to teach young women about contraception, and the goal was to prevent pregnancy. They had a control group, the program failed, but then the people feeding off of this new system argued to keep it “because they felt they were doing so much good”.

      I believe I’ve heard we have over 50 programs to help improve teacher performance. Gather the data, rank the results, and chop off the non performers.

      I’d eliminate programs that teach inner city children rap music in the summer, if this really does exist (could it be an urban myth?). We need more meaty subject matter that will help them build a future.

      Regarding truancy laws, and social programs in general, maybe we should drug test all welfare recipients. We could also tie certain social benefits to school attendance if we can’t correct the problem with other measures. Apparently it also took the liberal California education establishment 50 years to track the ethnicity of truancy, so I’m not sure how competent they are at any of this. They wouldn’t last 12 months in a legitimate business venture.

      I once read ongoing debates where liberals were browbeating the plight of African American children, and finally a conservative popped up and asked why these individuals didn’t sign up for Big Brothers or Big Sisters. One liberal posted that they called, but there was no need. Within 10 minutes the conservative checked, and reported there were over 500 African American youth in said big city waiting for a Big Brother / Sister.

       

       

      1. Tia Will

        TBD

        1. “The problem with your logic of “If you eliminate x, what would you replace it with””

        This was not logic. It was a genuine question. I am asking you to be specific. Which specific current program would you cut and how would you address the problem that it was designed to remedy ? It is you that is making the claim of ineffective programs and I believe that you are probably correct in some cases. So let’s start. Which program, and what remedy would you suggest for the underlying problem.

        2. Let’s take the concrete suggestions that you did make. Forcing a woman to divulge the name of the father. Let’s say we do that. What do you suggest be the action taken in the following circumstances:

        – She refuses to say. What do you do ? Put her in jail ? That costs more than supporting her on the outside since you would have to provide her room and board and provide for the child anyway.

        – She doesn’t know. Are we then going to make her name every contact she may have had assuming she knows who they are and paternity test all of them ?

        – What happens if the father of the baby cannot or will not work to support the child ? What ultimately will you do to him. Incarceration ?  Again, pretty expensive and you still have to support the child.

        3. Assessment of teacher programs – I agree that programs should be ranked for effectiveness and best practices adopted. And I believe that these studies do get conducted and practices do change based on them. I know this is true in medicine. Do you know that it is not occurring in education ? This still however does not address the issue of truancy which is much, much bigger than just kids being bored by ineffective teachers.

        4. “I’d eliminate programs that teach inner city children rap music”

        I absolutely can not support elimination of any cultural program because you or I or anyone else does not happen to appreciate that form of expression. Would you be in favor of elimination of classical music programs because you don’t like that kind of music. I don’t care much about sports. Should we eliminate all sports programs because I don’t think that they are “meaty enough”? After all people can stay fit just by walking, no training, no expense needed.

        5. “maybe we should drug test all welfare recipients”

        Maybe we should or maybe we shouldn’t. What do you propose doing with those results. If the parent tests positive what then ? Cut off food to their children ? Incarcerate the parent ?  Oops ! Now you have both of them to support once again ?  Foster system is already overwhelmed, now what.

        What I see you offering are talking points. That’s fine as long as you can support your claims that your way would be better. Let’s keep talking.

         

      2. Don Shor

        I’d eliminate programs that teach inner city children rap music in the summer, if this really does exist (could it be an urban myth?). We need more meaty subject matter that will help them build a future.

        Summer programs for inner city kids are likely to be very effective at reducing crime. Remember that study I posted on another thread? I have no particular love of rap music, but summer music programs are probably just as good as any other summer programs, and it’s likely that any summer music program will include rap. I think you’re painting a pretty broad brush, and that your specific objection is to certain types of rap music. Not the genre in general.
        But it doesn’t really matter. The point is to keep kids busy during the summer. Any parent knows that’s a good idea. In poorer neighborhoods, it’s likely that the government is going to have to provide those programs. Obviously I have a bias, but I like this one: http://www.yesmagazine.org/for-teachers/teacher-stories/fresh-and-fly

      3. wdf1

        TBD: I’d eliminate programs that teach inner city children rap music in the summer, if this really does exist (could it be an urban myth?). We need more meaty subject matter that will help them build a future.

        In the long term, I think you’ll regret having suggested this.  This comment will go on the trash heap of other suggestions at different points in time to eliminate or question the validity of jazz, rock and roll, abstract expressionism, heavy metal, beat poetry, and, most recently, marching band.  If there is an inner city summer rap music program, I think that’s generally a good thing.  I don’t pretend to be hip and current on rap or hip-hop culture, but I have heard a lot of rap music that I’ve enjoyed.

        The justification that “We need more meaty subject matter that will help them build a future,is how and why the arts get cut from the school curricular offerings, because arts are devalued in the argument. Performing arts is a valuable pursuit to learn how to work with others, to learn how to connect with an audience, to develop interesting and innovative forms of expression, to take pride and ownership of successful creations, to learn that successful creations and performances come from lots of hard work (delayed gratification) among other things.  If there is a positive existential benefit for the participants, then great. That is something that is often missing in the lives of kids.  

        As for your “meaty subject matter,” I’d suggest offering additional components to such a project (summer rap music to inner city kids, if it exists) by teaching sound, visual, and performance technology, techniques of publicity, and possibly how one might monetize one’s creative product — figure out how to sell the music, make t-shirts, develop events, etc.

      4. South of Davis

        TBD wrote:

        > I once read ongoing debates where liberals were browbeating the

        > plight of African American children, and finally a conservative popped

        > up and asked why these individuals didn’t sign up for Big Brothers

        > or Big Sisters. 

        The (mostly liberal) welfare complex does not want things to get better for black kids since if it does many will lose their jobs just like the (mostly conservative) criminal justice complex does not want things to get better for black kids since it it does many will lose their jobs.

        Similar to the situation where liberal politicians want more illegal aliens to get more liberal voters and conservative politicians want more illegal aliens so their donors have cheap workers we have no chance of fixing the problem of black kids without dads “or” illegal aliens since most (but not all) of the people in power like things just the way they are…

         

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          SOD, in this case I’m not sure it even goes that deep. I think both “sides” are so wedded to their positions, and people are so busy in life, I don’t think many people really question what works and what doesn’t. President Clinton trotted out a one-sided commission to discuss race or discrimination when he was president, and it was loaded with liberals and one token moderate or conservative. But when he faced a divided power structure and Newt Gingrich, he did move to a more centrist position. We slowed spending (not cut), added 100,000 police officers, reformed welfare, and more. (President Obama has rolled back some of these.)

          The mainstream press doesn’t help much with it’s one-sided liberal view, which is what gave birth to Fox News and talk radio. Four decades ago, conservatives had William F Buckley and National review.

          Clinton had a major impact (with Gingrich), Reagan had an impact setting our economy on fire (record revenues, 700,000 new jobs a month at one point).

          But today the Republicrats are selling the middle and lower class down the river. Illegal immigration is example numero uno as the GOP leaders like cheap labor, and the Democrats want votes. The GOP is also worried about being labeled racist. Many of the entry-level jobs that African American youth used to land now go to illegal immigrants, who also depend heavily on social welfare programs. Many work crews are 100-percent Latino in the trades and service industries, and Spanish is a requirement. There is no diversity. So the black youth face 50% unemployment in many urban cities, they’re frequently not taking meaty classes, and on the other end we are importing unneeded H1B visa workers to pressure the other side of the equation.

          So we’ve got Tiger Moms pushing their high school children in Palo Alto and Los Gatos to take junior college classes in chemistry and math before they take them in high school. Why? They want to ace the class in high school to better their chance at a 4.3 or 4.6 GPA so that they can get into Stanford or Harvard, while liberals peddle rap music as cultural enrichment to black youth. I believe many of the black icons of the civil rights movement studied rigorous subject matter like Greek, Latin, and the classics, which helped propel them to advanced degrees and wonderful accomplishments.

          No Tia, I don’t think these are “talking points”. Obama has dramatically expanded the welfare state, he’s importing millions of additional low skilled workers that harm black, brown, and white workers, and we have yet to address our Baby Boomer retirement tsunami. Just like Governor Brown delays dealing with unfunded state pensions.

        2. South of Davis

          TBD wrote:

          > I think both “sides” are so wedded to their positions, and people

          > are so busy in life, I don’t think many people really question what

          > works and what doesn’t.

          We have not had two “sides” for decades and the people in power (who give to both so called  “sides”) only care about creating more wealth.

          When the first “Forbes 400 List” came out 30+ years ago Warren Buffett was worth $250 Million and the Walton (Wal-Mart) Family was worth $690 Million.  Today Buffett is worth $46 BILLION and the Waltons are worth $116 BILLION.

          Great guest post on a friends blog today that talks about how things have changed since America went from (pretty much) spending what it earned via taxation to just borrowing/printing what it needed to make the rich richer:

          “A taxation regime prospers when its tax haul increases. Thus an intelligently-managed taxation-funded regime will take actions to promote the general welfare, as the U.S. Constitution calls it. This regime wants businesses and individuals to prosper so that it can obtain a larger tax haul from them. Thus the interests of the people and of the taxation regime are aligned.”

          “In order to suppress wages, money printers advocate maximum female participation in the workplace, open borders immigration and global labor arbitrage. Taxation regimes seek to increase taxpayers’ wages.”

          http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjan15/JeffW-printing1-15.html

          Hopefully the people on “both sides” will realize that working together to stop the super rich from rigging the economy is more important that fighting over prayer in school or gay marriage…

        3. Frankly

          I have always been impressed with the work of economist Thomas Piketty.  His more current work on income and wealth inequity make a pretty solid case that a slower-growing economy coupled with high rates of return on capital always lead to greater income and wealth inequity.

          In his book Rich Dad, Poor dad, Robert Kiyosaki explains it very well in layman’s terms.  He explains that being a wage-earner puts you in the “rat race”.  Leveraging your time for income limits your ability to grow wealth for two reasons: one – you have limited time… two – the government taxes the crap out of wages.  Like all high net worth people, Kiyosaki explains that the way to wealth is to accumulate capital, and assets acquired by capital, that appreciate and/or earn dividends.  And because capital gains get a tax break, you increase your returns.

          So I agree with SOD to a large degree that our system has been rigged and the smart and resourceful people are just exploiting all the loopholes that the dolts in government establish in their attempts to be seen as the high and mighty social engineering heroes.  We set up a system that actually encourages people to behave a certain way and then do this weird moral postulating and grandstanding (Occupy, etc.) that people are crooks.  The real crooks are the Washington politicians and voters that put them in office to get a cookie or scrap from the table.

          Piketty paints a pretty good picture of the main problem and the solution.  The problem is too slow economic growth and knowledge and skills divergence… and other types of divergence that are socioeconomic and political.

          We need new economic policy that encourages real economic growth where we are inventing and making things, not just trading money.  The greater rewards for capital investment should be for bets on enterprise that utilizes our human capital… not just for betting on a game of moving money around.

          And we need a completely reformed education policy that blows the doors off a system that has pretty much been the same for 200 years. We should be leveraging technology to increase knowledge and skills convergence and diffusion.

          One last point… the discussion about innovation parks in Davis is a big part of this recommendation.  Developing a robust innovation culture in places where it can be done will jump start convergence and help to spur more economic growth.   Yes there will be people that get fabulously wealthy.   Income inequity is not really the problem, it is the percentage of people lacking opportunity to make a good life for themselves.

          Where do we start?  First is a recognition of the problems we face.  Then we should throw the bums out of office and elect reformers… and move to impeach them at the first sign they are assimilated into the political greed factory.

          One thing for sure, if we keep heading down the same trajectory, the Great Experiment is over.  This is certainly the aim of some in this country lacking a perspective of how good they have it because they don’t have something.  And it will make the leftists collectivists happy since they are more driven to force everyone else into their ideological box than they are about the types of things that make this such a special place (things like freedom).   But there are plenty of us that reject those aims and misguided wants and want to protect this country for our kids and their kids.

          Sounds to me like we need another revolution!

        4. South of Davis

          Frankly wrote: 

          >In his book Rich Dad, Poor dad, Robert Kiyosaki explains it very well in

          > layman’s terms.  He explains that being a wage-earner puts you in the “rat race”.

          The cartoon in the link below explains it in even simpler terms:

          http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-10-10/how-saving-grows-economy

          The sad thing is that most Americans don’t save much, don’t invest much and just complain a lot about how little they get paid (while waiting for the next iDevice to come out so they can charge it on their credit card at 18%)…

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