Saturday, 23 January 2021

Murphy: DA candidates’ debate review – another take

I got a bit of a chuckle out of reading Deb Baumann’s (whom I agree with on 95 percent of the issues) letter regarding the May 14 DA’s race debate, as I began to wonder if we had indeed attended the same event.

Baumann suggests that Susan Krones’ opponent Steven Brown had tried to inflate his resume, when it seemed clear that Krones had used some very fuzzy math to guesstimate the number of cases she had handled as a deputy district attorney.

Baumann next claimed that being a longtime resident of Lake County (as Mr. Brown has been) was a disadvantage and not something to brag about, but she seems to have missed the part where Mr. Brown stated he had gotten a degree from Penn State and had worked in Sonoma County as an attorney, and the mentioning of his background was only briefly touched on in his opening remarks.

The next aspect of Mr. Brown’s performance Ms. Baumann took issue with was that he had stated that rape was oftentimes a difficult crime to prosecute, which doesn’t seem too off-base as there are usually no witnesses and the persons involved oftentimes know each other – meaning it comes down to who’s story do you believe as to whether it was consensual.

But it wasn’t so much what Ms. Baumann found wrong with Mr. Brown that bewildered me as much as the the lack of concern over something Susan Krones had said about “overcharging” defendants, because of her hope to send them to state prison, in order to reduce the problem of overcrowding at the county jail.

Mr. Brown replied that issue was the sheriff’s problem, which I found reassuring as it seems extremely unethical to me to base charging decisions on the county’s finances and not on the law or fairness; in fact, it seems like prosecutorial misconduct to make such a statement and I can imagine defense attorneys using it against her in court.

But the statement meant more than that to me, as it brought a bad memory from 13 years ago back into sharp focus, as I had interviewed Susan Krones for a published account of a case she had handled that I had written. The case involved a 45-year-old man with serious mental health issues, whom I believed was sent to state prison for exactly that reason – to save the county some money.

He had been labeled a sex offender many years prior due to a bizarre incident that occurred while extremely intoxicated, a case which was of very dubious merit to start with, and his current charge was failure to register as a sex offender in spite of no less than four attempts to do so at local law enforcement agencies. In fact, the situation was so absurd that the regulations changed as a result of this case, so they can no longer tell people to come back later when they are less busy.

The combination of unfairness and seeming total lack of compassion for this man really shook me, and the thought of a severely mentally ill, 145-pound, 5-foot, 8-inch-tall middle-aged man of mixed race going to state prison for a reason beyond his control seemed downright cruel.

These are not attributes I want to see in a DA, and I believe that if Ms. Baumann dug into the background of the candidates a bit more she would agree with me that Mr. Brown is a better choice for our next DA.

Phil Murphy lives in Finley, Calif.

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