Day One Changes

DAY ONE CHANGES

 

There are changes that our current prosecutor could make today but has not and likely will not. Below is a list of changes I vow to start making in my first day on the job when I assume the office of King County Prosecuting Attorney.

Charge Kids as Kids

Problem: The Prosecutor’s Office currently charges minors in adult court, even though this is inconsistent with current evidence on adolescent brain development and best practices.

Solution: Stop automatically filing cases against children in adult court and return existing filings to juvenile court where they belong.  Exceptions in extraordinary cases must be decided by a judge, not unilaterally by prosecutorial charging decisions.  

Reduce Sentences for Adult Youth Ages 18 – 24

Problem:  The Prosecutor punishes very young adults in a way that is inconsistent with what we know about brain development in teenagers and young adults.

Solution:  Bring charges in line with current science and seek downward sentencing departures where youth is a mitigating factor.

End Money Bail

Problem: The use of money bail applies an unequal system of justice and contributes to the criminalization of poverty while having low-to-no impact on wealthy defendants.

Solution: Use money bail only if constitutionally required. Ensure public safety on serious cases through the use of no-bail detention orders.

Eradicate Waste and Delay

Problem: High-cost delays due to lack of available trial deputies that are borne by the taxpayer.

Solution: Dedicate staff to promote speedy trial and conduct pre-trial preparation, and make adequate staff available on nights and weekends for pretrial interviews with third-watch officers.

Centralize the Plea Bargaining Function and Impose Limits on Use

Problem: The King County Prosecutor’s office utilizes coercive plea bargaining, resulting in innocent people taking guilty pleas.

Solution:  Create a Plea Bargaining Unit, separate from the Trial Unit, and implement rules and oversight to prevent coercion and wrongful conviction.

Protect Those with Mental Illness

Problem: Use of our mental health court to convict people with disabilities instead of providing a path to re-entry and the jailing of people with serious mental health concerns without providing access to adequate care.  Mental Health Court not available to enough people.

Solution: Provide mental health diversion without a conviction and increase the number of cases diverted to mental health court. Do not file charges for non-violent offenses against individuals who are too ill to proceed in court without access to psychiatric care.

Expand Diversion for all Low Level Drug Offenses

Problem: Underutilization of cost-effective, harm-reducing drug programs.

Solution: Expand and reform drug diversion eligibility criteria so that people are not excluded for financial reasons or other reasons not consistent with public safety values.

Stop Human Trafficking Instead of Punishing Sex Workers

Problem: Endangerment of sex workers through misguided and ill-informed measures which drive sex workers further underground and make them more vulnerable to abuse. Accepting money from moralistic special interest groups whose values affect policy around sex work and sex workers.   

Solution: End failed "demand abolition" approaches and refocus enforcement efforts to end real exploitation and human trafficking.

Reduce Racist Effects of The Drug War

Problem:  Disparate rates of felony conviction for people of color and other marginalized communities for low-level drug crimes.

Solution: Vacate convictions for all low-level drug offenses and any convictions that would be presently eligible for diversion.

Hold Law Enforcement Officers Accountable in Cases of Police Misconduct

Problem: Mismanagement of evidence of police misconduct.

Solution: Revise the police misconduct disclosure policy to comply with Brady v. Maryland.

Prevent Wrongful Convictions Through Transparency and Accountability

Problem: Lack of attention to credible claims of wrongful convictions.

Solution: Create a Post-Conviction Unit to review credible claims of innocence.

End Discrimination Against Our Jurors

Problem: Overuse and misuse of peremptory challenges to remove people of color and the poor from our juries.

Solution: Centralize oversight of all peremptory challenges according to strict guidelines to prohibit racial and economic discrimination.  Advocate for an increase to the juror pay rate. Request a new jury panel whenever a defendant of color is facing trial before an all-white jury panel.

Justice in and for Communities

Problem: Community alienation from law enforcement and the judicial process.

Solution: Recruit and hire prosecutors with backgrounds and experiences that reflect the diversity of our communities in King County. Regularly invite community members and representatives to discuss problems in their neighborhoods and identify ways that the Prosecutor’s office can help.