By Samara Yarnes
LOS ANGELES – County District Attorney George Gascón—feeling immense pressure to maintain the integrity and well-being of those he represents—resigned from the California District Attorneys Association Tuesday, becoming the second of California’s 58 District Attorneys to do so. San Joaquin County’s District Attorney Tori Salazar is the other.
In a well-crafted letter of resignation to the Honorable Vern Pierson, Gascón recounted his numerous grievances with the CDAA. He explained with a “heavy heart” that the CDAA does not fulfill its sole purpose: supporting communities and fighting for justice.
Rather, he said, the CDAA represents an old way of thinking, that of “tough on crime.”
He writes that CDAA has “dug its heels in, rejected science, and willingly turned a blind eye to a two-tiered criminal justice system that places communities of color and poor defendants at a clear disadvantage.”
Gascón argued CDAA’s failure to support initiatives that would offer aid to the community, such as Proposition 47, a proposition that would decrease certain felony crimes to misdemeanors. Even without the CDAA’s support, Proposition 47 passed, with its passage leading to positive change such as decreased poverty crime and recidivism, certainly beneficial impacts to communities.
Further, Gascón said the CDAA has blocked other policies that would promote positive change in communities. For example, CDAA has opposed laws that would stop minors being tried as adults, prevent racial discrimination in the selection of juries, and protect sex workers who have reported crimes.
Additionally, Gascón wrote that the CDAA’s rejection of prosecutorial discretion serves as proof of the CDAA’s abandonment of the core values of justice. Prosecutorial justice, he maintains, grants prosecutors the ability to decide when to prosecute for a crime and gives them the power to decide which criminal charges to file.
With the rejection of this, prosecutors are unable to rally for more lenient punishment in situations when it is beneficial, he added, noting the CDAA has clung to “the antiquated notion that safety and justice is achieved by overcriminalization and harsh prison sentences.”
Not only does Gascón cite the CDAA’s failure to grow and support policies for the good of all, but he said he is severely disappointed with the CDAA’s misappropriation of funds. The association transferred money meant to be spent on environmental prosecutions and instead used these funds to oppose criminal justice reform.
As a member of the CDAA for nine years, Gascón explained he had hoped the CDAA would grow past its detrimental ideologies and support fair justice for all.
However, after reflecting on his considerable participation and the more recent misappropriation of funds, Gascón has decided to leave the association.
With his resignation, Gascón takes the immense resources held by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, funds that the CDAA will most definitely miss.
He said he hopes that his resignation from the association will inspire others to look more closely at the decisions made by the CDAA and thus hold them accountable to promote justice in California.
Samara Yarnes is a senior at the University of California – Davis, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Psychology and Sociology. She is originally from La Crescenta, California.
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