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Protesters, including victims of violent crime and their families, gathered on Thursday December 31st to demonstrate against the policies proposed by Los Angeles’ new District Attorney George Gascón.
The “Candlelight Vigil for Victims of Violent Crimes” outside the Justice Hall was organized by a Facebook group that wanted to remember Gascón. The group, which had around 35,000 members as of Wednesday, said the district attorney’s special orders put “criminals first, victims last”.
Since taking office earlier this month, Gascón has announced several policies that have been despised by many prosecutors and police unions, including the removal of bail and the improvement of conviction. The Association of Deputy District Attorneys, which represent around 800 prosecutors, said in the lawsuit filed earlier this week that Gascón’s policies were illegal and unfair to ask prosecutors to follow suit.
Initially, Gascón ordered his prosecutors not to file any more sentence amendments, but later changed his policy on Friday, December 18 amid backlashes. Some will stay, also because of hate crimes and cases involving children.
Penalty enhancements extend a defendant’s sentence, for example if a crime was committed in the name of a gang or a victim was seriously injured. Police unions and some victims’ lawyers expressed outrage at the removal of all penal amendments, in addition to some judges and assistant prosecutors, particularly for violent crimes such as murder and rape.
Gascón also announced that his office will no longer prosecute the death penalty, bring teenagers to justice as adults, seek bail for misdemeanors and non-serious non-violent crimes, or add gang and other enhancements to criminal charges.
“People who commit a crime and whose prosecution is appropriate because we have the admissible evidence to move forward and we believe that the person has committed a crime will be held accountable,” he said. “And that accountability will be proportionate to crime, and improvement has nothing to do with accountability.”
The Los Angeles Police Protective League then issued a blistering statement, calling Gascon a “politician” rather than a seasoned prosecutor.
“George Gascon is offering a MasterClass on the dangers of a politician who runs the prosecution office instead of an experienced prosecutor,” the statement said. “It took a national outcry to understand that child rapists, human traffickers and perpetrators of violent hate crimes should spend more time behind bars. Even so, he’s still ready to spare gang members who terrorize our neighborhoods or criminals who shoot police officers in the back of the head. He still doesn’t understand that crime victims need an authentic voice for justice, not a politician saying one thing and doing another – we’ve had enough of that. “
Gascon – who told reporters earlier this month that he had a “public mandate” and intended to “follow that mandate” – said past harsh crime policies “undermine rehabilitation, exacerbate racist and other inequalities in our justice system “System and they are decimating families and communities. They are also crowding prisons and jails, and exacerbating the COVID pandemic behind bars. “