By David M. Greenwald
San Jose, CA – A forum sponsored by Afro UPRIS on Monday evening featured two of the three candidates for DA in San Jose—incumbent Jeff Rosen and Public Defender Sajid Khan.
Because it was sponsored by a Democratic club, Daniel Chung, the third candidate, was not eligible to participate, as he is not a registered Democrat.
Question: What have you done for marginalized communities in Santa Clara County in your work capacity?
Sajid Khan: I’ve served this community for almost 14 years as a public defender, and I’m still working as a public defender to this day. I’m in our jails, I’m in our courtrooms, I’m in our juvenile hall, uh, fighting for the rights to and healing of our most marginalized community members. As we know, the majority of individuals in our criminal legal system are people of color, are poor people.”
He added, “In Santa Clara County there is a disproportionate representation of African American and Latinos both in our juvenile justice system and in our adult criminal legal system. And I’ve been showing up every day fighting for those individuals’ rights and fighting for their dignity and ensuring that they don’t become prey or fall prey to our systems of mass incarceration. In the same vein I’ve been fighting against police brutality and unconstitutional police conduct by holding police accountable as a public defender, litigating motions, cross-examining police officers.”
Jeff Rosen: “So actually I’m the only person running for DA who has held police officers accountable. I’ve prosecuted more than 60 police officer as the district attorney for crimes ranging from excessive use to force, to drug trafficking, to fraud, bribery, perjury, domestic violence, rape, child molestation, possession of child pornography and murder.”
He continued, “I’m one of the few District Attorneys in the United States to ever successfully prosecute correctional officers for murder.”
Rosen added, “In addition, as District Attorney, I’ve worked very hard to reduce the footprint of the criminal justice system. It’s why I supported Proposition 36, which reformed the three strikes law and Proposition 47, which reduced drug possession as well as other low level theft crimes to misdemeanors those two propositions, which I supported—I was one of only three district attorneys and sheriffs in the entire state to support those—have resulted in thousands and thousands of fewer, primarily African American and Latino individuals not going to jail or prison.”
Question: What is your plan to minimize the impact of the criminal justice system on the Black and brown communities?
Jeff Rosen: “Well, there’s many things that I have done and there’s more that I can do and we can do to minimize the impact of the criminal justice system, on Black and brown communities. So number one, just as evidence that we have minimized the impact upon African Americans and Latinos, before I took office, our jail population was over 5,000. Today is around 2300, a more than 50% decrease in the number of individuals incarcerated in our jail. That’s because of policies that I pursued as the district attorney.”
He added, “These are just some of the efforts that we’ve undertaken and there’s more to do to try to reduce the footprint of the criminal justice system while also keeping crime at historically low levels, which benefits everyone as well as working class communities of color.”
Sajid Khan: “The first thing is that I’ll be a truth teller. I’m proud to say Black lives matter. And I’m also proud to tell the truth about systemic racism that is at the core of our criminal legal system. The second thing is related to the jail population numbers that Mr. Rosen has cited.
“The reason that the jail population has been reduced are not because of Mr. Rosen’s leadership or policies enacted by him. They are based upon policies that have been enacted in response to policies that Mr. Rosen has pursued that have resulted in bloated jail populations.
“Prop 36 and Prop 47 were initiated by or were voted upon by California voters in response to our jails being full of people, on low level, crimes like possession of methamphetamine and cocaine. I personally represented people that were being sent to prison under Mr. Rosen’s watch for a simple possession of simple drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine and Prop 47 remedied that Prop 36 was in response to the three strikes law being utilized to sentence people to prison for low-level crimes. And that was happening under the of Mr. Rosen.”
Khan later noted, “Gang enhancements are a critical source of systemic racism. 88% of gang enhancements in Santa Clara county are levied upon people of color and they’re rooted upon. And they’re based upon racist gang policing that are almost exclusively inflicted on communities of color in Santa Clara county. So if we want to address systemic racism, we need to do what gang enhancements do away with gang enhancements that don’t make our communities safer.”
Question: What programs and policies would you implement as district attorney to reduce crime, reduce crime and increase public safety in the community, but thinking outside of our current legal system?
Sajid Khan: “It’s critical that we zoom out on crime and harm in our community and seek to take a proactive approach to preventing harm in order to prevent harm in Santa Clara County and beyond. As a public defender, I’ve been in our juvenile hall, I’ve been in our jail and I’ve represented countless people who have been accused of and convicted of harm. And I’ve heard their stories. I’ve heard the stories and, and I’ve understood that harm and crime don’t come in a vacuum. They’re not a function of bad people. There are often a function of circumstance and context, things that could be remedied and in turn, help us avoid harm from happening in the first place.”
He added, “It’s critical that we reallocate resources away from things like pursuing the death penalty, prosecuting children as adults, utilizing county resources to oppose progressive reforms like the racial justice act and SB 1391, and utilizing those resources on a countywide level on the front end, our communities to ensure that we have trauma-informed care at our schools to ensure that our teachers are adequately paid to ensure that we have smaller classroom sizes to ensure that we have mental health and substance abuse and trauma-informed treatment programs available in our communities so that we can prevent trauma from occurring in the first place and prevent trauma from spiraling into harm outward into our community.”
Jeff Rosen responded that “I can’t go back and correct every lie and mischaracterization that Mr. Khan has made.” He said, “But I really think one of the things that’s important, uh, in the criminal justice system is honesty and integrity and transparency.”
He said, “I’d really like to know why Sajid Khan hides and deletes blog posts that he’s made where he glorifies Ray Rice who beat his wife, a kidnapper and gang rapist that he represented and Brock Turner, of course, who raped Chanel Miller and all of these blog posts where Mr. Khan talks only about the defendant and never about the victim in these cases, why has he deleted those blog posts?”
Rosen continued, “There’s many things I’ve done to reduce the footprint of the criminal justice system. Is there more work to be done? Absolutely. Are there things we’ve done outside of the box? Yes. In addition to the parent project and community prosecutors and the most progressive narcotics public safety policy and no cash bail, all of these things have shrunk our jail population. We use incarceration 40% less than any counties in California.”
He said, “At the same time, it’s important for us to remember that the victims of crime in our community are disproportionately African American and Latino. And that’s why my victim services unit is serving thousands and thousands of those victims every year with counseling restitution, emergency food and emergency shelter. We’re proud of that and will continue to do that.”