By David M. Greenwald
The Memphis Watch this week put out a piece, “Memphis Is The Most Dangerous City In America. Blame Amy Weirich.” The piece points out that Memphis is now the “most dangerous city in America.”
“342 people in Memphis were murdered last year,” they report. They point out, “Amy Weirich, the Shelby County District Attorney General, is in office. She’s the elected prosecutor in Memphis and, like all prosecutors, she’s supposed to be the city’s top law enforcement official. Unlike Amy Weirich, real prosecutors fight crime, not fuel it. Murders have skyrocketed under Weirich’s leadership, rising every single year since she took office over a decade ago.”
Weirich, however, is not a reformer—she’s a traditional prosecutor.
Her problem, they argue: “In cities across the country where violent crime has decreased, prosecutors prioritize their limited resources on the most serious offenses – crimes like rapes, armed robberies, shootings, and murders. And those prosecutors deprioritize low level offenses like marijuana possession or stealing diapers from a Walmart.”
They write, “Weirich’s failure to prioritize violent offenses creates crushing work loads and encourages hard-working prosecutors to cut corners, forcing courts to reverse murder convictions due to misconduct and other unforced prosecutorial errors.”
The Washington Examiner, a conservative publication, on January 1, argued, “Liberal prosecutors across the country have overseen significant crime waves in America’s major cities this year — and have largely stood by their aggressive reforms.” They added that “few have acknowledged the seeming link between their departure from the prosecutorial status quo and the rise in violence.”
Their examples: Larry Krasner, Chesa Boudin, Marilyn Mosby, Kim Foxx and George Gascón.
But if you look at the list of cities with high murder rates and large increases in murder rates, there are a lot of cities that have traditional DAs.
Not only that, but while Prop. 47 has received a huge amount of blame in places like California for raising the dollar limits for felony charges, there seems to be a lack of recognition that California actually still has one of the lowest thresholds for felony charges.
“Some of the most conservative, tough-on-crime states had higher dividing lines than California even before Proposition 47 passed. Texas was at $1,500. It has since raised the line to $2,500, matching South Carolina. Most states are now at $1,000 or more, so even at $950, California’s threshold is now among the toughest third of states,” the LA Times pointed out in a recent editorial.
So why are progressive reformers getting the blame when traditional DAs and traditional laws are largely the rule of the land?
As Tana Ganeva points out, “Progressive prosecutors get all the attention. But how are crime rates in districts run by the ‘toughest-on-crime’ DAs?”
She argues that panic over progressive DAs is masking the poor records of conservative prosecutors.
“The alarmist headlines have proliferated during last year’s spike in killings, even though the rise in homicides occurred virtually everywhere, including districts run by Republicans and conservative DAs,” she writes.
As The Appeal pointed out, “one of the largest increases in homicides occurred in Fort Worth, Texas, whose DA and Sheriff are ‘tough-on-crime’ Republicans.”
Vox also observed that “… murder rates increased in cities run by Democrats and Republicans, progressive and not.”
But Ganeva argues “if you look at news coverage almost all discussion of crime is linked to cities with progressive DAs. This links reform to crime, causing even left-leaning people to wonder if progressives have gone too far. While progressive DAs are often blamed for upticks in crime on their watch, tough-on-crime officials rarely face such scrutiny.”
Tough-on-crime prosecutors continue to escape scrutiny, even as the crime is largely going up on their watch
“Whenever a terrible crime occurs under the watch of a supposed “progressive prosecutor,” the media is on standby to criticize the movement for reform,” Geneva points out.
She highlights the case of Darrell Edward Brooks who plowed his car into a parade and killed six people in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Immediately, the news broadcast his past criminal record—he had been arrested for domestic abuse after running a woman over in his car.
“Critics focused on DA John Chisolm’s alleged progressivism,” Ganeva argues.
“Meet the Progressive DA Behind the Waukesha Bail Catastrophe,” the conservative Daily Caller declared.
Even mainstream media jumped on.
“There’s a backlash brewing against bail reform after the parade tragedy in Waukesha,” NPR noted.
But his bail which seemed low at $1000, had nothing to do with bail reform—which never happened in Wisconsin.
“But Brooks’ relatively low bail had nothing to do with reform,” Ganeva pointed out. Instead, it had to do with calculations specific to the bail laws. “That’s how he got $1,000 bail, not because prosecutors were extremely sympathetic to his case. Nevertheless, the Waukesha tragedy was presented as an outcome of reform.”
On the other hand, tough-on-crime DAs get to play by a different script. Ganeva highlights Michael Hestrin, the DA of Riverside, who “raked in $149,300 from law enforcement groups during his 2014 campaign and thousands more during his reelection in 2018.”
She points out, “Yet despite his commitment to aggressive prosecutions, the crime rate in Riverside is higher than in 83.9 percent of US cities.”
“In the last 5 years Riverside has seen rise of violent crime and decline of property crime,” according to the City-Data crime index.
Yet, “When tragedy strikes under Hestrin’s watch, no media outlets blame his policies—a perfect illustration of status quo bias.”
For example, she points out the case Martin Joel Ramirez Hernandez. On December 15, 2021, he “plowed his car into 52-year-old Jacqueline Morgan, who had stopped her car to help a stranded animal. She died four days later. The incident occurred in Riverside County, Hestrin’s jurisdiction.”
The driver had three DUI cases going back a decade.
“Why hasn’t Hestrin been raked over the coals for ‘causing’ a woman’s death by not keeping him in prison for the repeat offense of drinking and driving?” she asks.