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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/14/19

Kamala Harris Has a Distinguished Career of Serving Injustice

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Republished from Black Agenda Report

Kamala Harris Has a Distinguished Career of Serving Injustice
Kamala Harris Has a Distinguished Career of Serving Injustice
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Harris favored criminalizing truancy, raising cash bail fees and keeping prisoners locked up for cheap labor.

"Harris's prosecutorial record, however, is far from progressive."

Kamala Harris is rising in the polls after dramatically confronting Joe Biden during the Democratic primary debate about his opposition to federally mandated busing for desegregation. The following week, however, Harris backed away from saying that busing should always be federally mandated, calling it just one "tool that is in the toolbox" for school districts to use. When asked to clarify whether she would support federal mandates for busing, she said: "I believe that any tool that is in the toolbox should be considered by a school district." But Biden's poll numbers are falling as a result of Harris's theatrical attack.

Harris, who served as San Francisco District Attorney from 2004 to 2011 and California Attorney General from 2011 to 2017, describes herself as a "progressive prosecutor." Harris's prosecutorial record, however, is far from progressive. Through her apologia for egregious prosecutorial misconduct, her refusal to allow DNA testing for a probably innocent death row inmate, her opposition to legislation requiring the attorney general's office to independently investigate police shootings and more, she has made a significant contribution to the sordid history of injustice she decries.

Harris Tried to Whitewash Jail Informant Scandal in California

For years, perhaps decades, the Orange County Sheriff's Department, in cooperation with the Orange County District Attorney (OCDA), planted teams of informants in the jail to illegally elicit confessions.

Deputy sheriffs placed informants near defendants who were represented by counsel to obtain statements from them. Prosecutors were aware of this program and explicitly or implicitly promised benefits to informants. This violated the defendants' Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

In People v. Dekraai, an informant in this program illegally obtained statements from the defendant. After the prosecutor agreed not to use the statements, Dekraai pled guilty to murder and was preparing his defense for a trial on whether he would get the death penalty. He asked the judge to find that the OCDA had a conflict of interest because of its involvement in the jail informant program.

Over a six-month period, the judge held two hearings and heard from 39 witnesses.

The judge found that many witnesses, including prosecutors and law enforcement officers, were "credibility challenged" about the nature of the informant program and their role in it. Some couldn't remember, the judge determined, but "others undoubtedly lied."

Thus, the judge concluded that the OCDA had a conflict of interest and recused the entire OCDA office, removing it from any further involvement in Dekraai's case.

Kamala Harris, who at that time was serving as State Attorney General, would then take over the prosecution of the death penalty phase of Dekraai's trial. But Harris appealed the judge's ruling and opposed the recusal of the OCDA.

"Harris tried to whitewash the scandal by protecting the DA."

In 2016, the Court of Appeal rejected Harris's argument and upheld the trial judge's recusal of the OCDA. The appellate court wrote in its opinion:

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Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and a member of the National Advisory Board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. See  (more...)
 

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