Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen today announced the first in a series of social justice reforms his Office is implementing in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. The reforms are intended to address racial discrimination and promote equity within the criminal justice system. Among the 26 policy and practice changes, DA Rosen announced that he will no longer seek the death penalty.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen said: “In the past, I supported the death penalty when I viewed the heinous murders through the eyes of the victims whose lives had been taken and from their families that might never find peace. But, I also trusted that as a society we could ensure the fundamental fairness of the legal process for all people. With every exoneration, with every story of racial injustice, it becomes clearer to me that this is not the world we live in. These cases use up massive public resources and cruelly drag on for years with endless appeals giving no finality to the victims’ families. There is the tragic but real risk of wrongful conviction. And shamefully our society’s most drastic and devastating law enforcement punishment has been used disproportionately against defendants of color.”
The DA said that the reforms came after spending the last several weeks listening to community leaders, criminal justice reform advocates, elected officials, neighborhood activists, and prosecutors in his own Office.
DA Rosen said: “We call this effort, “Bend the Arc.” The phrase – taken from a 1965 Martin Luther King, Jr. speech in which he said – “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” – has become a guiding light in this DA’s Office. It gives us a powerful reminder that we can’t just sit back and wait and hope that justice happens. It won’t. We have to actively, purposely, and intentionally seek justice and pursue justice to achieve justice.”
The first set of reforms include:
- The DA will work to end cash bail in California.
- The DA will stop requesting fines and fees from indigent defendants.
- The DA will create a fund, with illegal money seized from criminals, that will be awarded to organizations successfully addressing race and inequity in our community.
- The DA will immediately cease filing thousands of charges of Driving on a Suspended License for Failure to Pay Fines and Fees in Superior Court. The cases will be filed in Traffic Court as infractions.
- The DA will automatically expunge the criminal record of those who are eligible and have successfully completed probation.
- The DA will create a Public and Law Enforcement Integrity Team to investigate criminal misconduct of police officers including excessive use of force.
All the reforms can be found on this list. The DA also released his annual Race and Prosecutions Report, which details some of the chronic racial disproportion in the system and the DA’s ongoing efforts to address the problem.