Alameda County DA: Champion of Progressive Criminal Justice or Politically Motivated?

10 mins read

District Attorney Nancy O’ Malley who had first been appointed by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 2009 has been in workplace for 11 years, operating unopposed in 2010 and 2014 and successful in opposition to Oakland’s civil rights legal professional Pamela Price in 2018. O’ Malley has been a reputed police ally and has by no means filed any prices in opposition to police in her greater than a decade of being prosecutor. 

Critics of selections in police-related instances had identified that O’ Malley “had accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from unions representing officers,” in keeping with a report by The San Francisco Chronicle.

Until this month when she shocked many critics by saying that she would reopen the investigation within the 2009 Oscar Grant killing at Fruitvale Station Oakland. This case concerned BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) officer Johannes Mehserle. Oscar Grant, a 22 yr previous African-American, was fatally shot on the again by Mehserle throughout the early hours of New Year’s Day, 11 years in the past. Multiple prices have been pressed in opposition to him however a Los Angeles County jury discovered him responsible solely of involuntary manslaughter. 

The announcement of O’ Malley got here in hours after Grant’s household held a convention on the practice station. According to Mercury News, the household had requested to analyze the position of  former officer Anthony Pirone who pinned Grant down much like what occurred to George Floyd and had additionally brought about the cascading of occasions in keeping with a number of witnesses. 

In a press release, O’ Malley stated, “We have listened closely to the requests of the family of Oscar Grant.” She additionally added that she has assigned a workforce of legal professionals to reexamine the case. 

The workplace of the Alameda County District Office situated on the ninth flooring of Oakland’s Courthouse has lately develop into a web site focused for protests and vandalism following the huge anti-police brutality demonstrations reignited by the dying of George Floyd final May 25 in Minneapolis. 

This bombshell determination had put O’ Mallet because the second district legal professional within the California state to cost any police officer for murder following the brand new legislation tightening restrictions on the use of lethal pressure by any officer. 

Though the choice to reopen the case was monumental particularly to Grant’s household, some observers should not satisfied that the choice was solely based mostly on the brand new legal guidelines. 

Politics have shifted in additional progressive counties throughout the Bay Area and this has been largely attributed to prosecutors and their stance on prison justice reform and police accountability. In a time of raging motion in opposition to police brutality, these have been as or much more vital than any win within the courtroom. 

Many are pushing that this determination is politically motivated as O’ Malley is very more likely to face an opponent from her left if she decides to run for re-election in 2022. Taking on high-profile police killings can surge her in the suitable route and even “boost her bonafides with the reform advocates” she would declare. 

Though O’ Malley didn’t touch upon in search of re-election, she insisted that her strikes weren’t in any approach politically motivated. She stated district attorneys “are bound by law, and the law changed,” in a current interview with The Chronicle. 

Yoel Haile, a prison justice program supervisor for the American Civil Liberties Union of North America, stated that the “days of traditional law-and-order prosecutors are waning.” 

“There’s been a change on the ground because of the Black Lives Matter movement that really brought to sharp focus the role of prosecutors, and failing to prosecute cops and enabling police violence,” Haile added.

Aside from the reopening of the 2009 Grant capturing case, O’ Malley has additionally filed a voluntary manslaughter cost in opposition to San Leandro police officer Jason Fletcher who shot and killed Steven Taylor, a Black man who was seen performing erratically inside Walmart whereas holding a bat. 

Fletcher was the primary to face prices in a civilian’s dying below the brand new legislation AB 392 which solely permits the use of lethal pressure “when an officer reasonably believes there is an immediate threat of death or serious injury.” Taylor’s household contended that Steven was in “the throes of a mental health crisis” however Fletcher’s attorneys famous that their shopper was in concern for his life. Currently, Fletcher is out on bail. 

Again, critics are saying that these are rigorously plotted political selections in distinction with I’ Malley’s declare of being a “progressive prosecutor”. 

For years, Grant’s household had rallied to cost Anthony Pirone who had since then been fired from his jobs however it’s not clear whether or not there actually is a authorized avenue to discover and produce Pirone to trial.  

Michael Cardoza, a criminal-defense legal professional in Walnut Creek and former Alameda County prosecutor, famous that it is a futile try as a result of primarily the statute of limitations for urgent prices besides homicide has already expired and Pirone didn’t fireplace the bullet which killed Grant. 

According to Cardoza, any prosecutor who calls themselves as progressive soundly interprets to “I want to get the liberal vote.” Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, additionally agrees 100% with O’ Malley’s critics. 

Although O’ Malley has a constructive monitor document in phrases of advocating for victims of intercourse trafficking and bail reform, she has additionally considerably pushed again a quantity of the state’s most progressive crime reform measures like Proposition 47 in 2014 which had been thought of as a landmark measure that turned felonies into misdemeanors. In 2018, she and different district attorneys endorsed a invoice to then-Gov. Jerry Brown that might reduce the sentences of accomplices convicted below the felony homicide rule. 

She additionally had controversial selections such because the 2018 Oakland police killing of Joshua Pawlik and the 2017 capturing of Elena Mondragon. 

Vern Pierson, the district legal professional in El Dorado County who succeeded O’Malley as president of the CDAA (California District Attorneys Association), helps the “progressive” moniker of O’ Malley citing her lobbying efforts on behalf of SB1220 which would require prosecutors to keep up a “Brady list” of legislation enforcers identified for demonstrating bias and mendacity. 

O’ Malley additionally highlighted that she has greater than 40 payments which have develop into legislation and expressed how these legal guidelines “have really changed the paradigm of how California not just engages victims and provides services and protections, but also for offenders.”

This upcoming 2022 District Attorney race, O’ Malley might but face one other left-leaning challenger with California Assemblymember Rob Bonta who confirmed with The CHronicle that he’s exploring to run on the subsequent race. 

O’ Malley shouldn’t be confirming whether or not she would search re-election and easily stated that, “I can’t tell you how many people will send me an email, or give a call and ask for us to look at a case. I respond to the community.”

“No matter what you do, someone’s going to criticize,” she added. “So, for me, I have to do what’s right.”

Thomas Lake

Resident tech nerd for the SF Times.