LOS ANGELES — After the race for Los Angeles County District Attorney was called and George Gascón found out he won, he said incumbent Jackie Lacey called and congratulated him.
“A lot of my supporters wanted me to declare a victory the day before and I refused to do so because I wanted to make sure she had the room to digest the information,” the Los Angeles County District Attorney-elect told Inside the Issues. “As I fully anticipated, she called and she was very gracious and I appreciate that.”
On taking office later this year, Gascón said he plans to work hard with everyone in the office, even those who oppose him, saying he will focus on earning their trust.
“At the end of the day we're all in this together — we are all public servants,” the former San Francisco DA said. “So there may be differences about how we get in to that process, but the reality is that everyone's a professional in this office and I believe that we're going to work together very well and I think that we're going to find that most of the times we're going to agree more than we disagree.”
Following his victory, Gascón met with members of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and families whose loved ones had been killed in police shootings in a meeting which he called “very emotional.” He has vowed to reopen several cases for reexamination.
“BLM, especially in L.A., has been a major stakeholder when it comes to criminal justice reform and they have always deserved a place at the table and certainly under my administration, they will have a place at the table, so will many others,” he expressed. “I believe in having a large tent and everybody that wants to come in and roll up their sleeves and work is going to be welcome.”
During the meeting, several people in the audience told Gascón if he didn’t follow through with his promises they will be watching him closely, may visit his home, or give out his phone number.
“I’m not easily intimidated so the worst thing you can do with George Gascón is try to intimidate me because that has a tendency to, actually, not work very well,” he said. “Also, look, this is a law enforcement job and part of that is we have to make sure that we do things within the law.”
Gascón said he has been the only DA to campaign statewide for police use of force laws but says police officers need to be supported when they are lawfully protecting the public and themselves.
“Now, when they commit a criminal act they need to be held accountable, just like anybody else in our community would be held accountable. So this is really about equity,” continued Gascón. “Prosecutors often are very good about holding members of the community accountable and sometimes they’re not very good about holding themself or other members of the law enforcement family accountable. My goal is to make sure that we level the playing field. When police are doing things that are difficult and they do it right they will have my support. When they go outside the boundaries of the law and they commit a crime, they will face the same consequences that anyone else will.”
Gascón has also pledged to ban capital punishment in Los Angeles County, despite a moratorium on the practice by California Governor Gavin Newsom. He said he feels the need to take the additional step to ensure taxpayer money is not wasted paying for inmates on death row saying L.A. County, and many other counties, “continue to jam people into death row which is horrendously expensive.”
“It’s important, especially for the most death-happy county in the state, and one of the most death-happy counties in the country, that we start unwinding that practice because it's not only socially wrong, it is immoral in this application — I believe that it is racist on its application — but even if you are really agnostic to the other two areas, which I hope that most people aren’t, just simply in dollars and cents it makes absolutely no sense at all,” he explained. “So, pulling away from seeking the death penalty in L.A. county would have a tremendous impact not only on the state budget, but also in the county budget because prosecuting a death penalty case requires so many more resources than if we decide to go to a life sentence.”
As a former DA for nine years, Gascón said he has sat across from families who have lost loved ones to heinous crimes many times.
“When you walk a family through the realities of what they're signing up for, when the DA decides to move forward with a death case, is that there's never any closure. They continue to have to relive this nightmare over and over and over again. Most of the families of a murder victim they want accountability and they want closure to the extent that you can have closure,” he said. “Obviously, you will never forget the fact that you lost a son, or a daughter, or a husband, or a wife, or a father, or a mother but you also — generally, in my experience, and like I said I did this for nine years — people don’t want to continue to relive this every day.”
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