A group of law professors and legal scholars released an open letter Wednesday calling on District Attorney Jackie Lacey to stop seeking the death penalty in murder cases, citing a report that the convicted killers who have been sentenced in Los Angeles County to death while she has been in office are all “people of color.”
“Not only does Lacey seek and obtain the death penalty more often (than) almost any other prosecutor, those sentenced to death under her watch have been exclusively people of color,” according to the letter, which is signed by professors from universities including USC, UCLA, UC Irvine, Loyola Law School and Pepperdine. “She pursues the death penalty in the face of terrible defense lawyering and not withstanding a moratorium on executions in California.”
The letter notes that “a majority of Los Angeles County voters favored the abolition of capital punishment in both 2012 and 2016.”
A report released last month by the American Civil Liberties Union — which called for the district attorney to “step up and step away from the death penalty” — noted that 13 of the inmates who were sentenced to death since Lacey was sworn in as the county’s top prosecutor in December 2012 were Latino, while eight were black and one was Asian. The report noted that no county in the United States has produced more death sentences than Los Angeles County, with nearly a third of California’s death row inmates coming from the region.
In a letter released earlier this month, Lacey countered that she has “asked for and received death sentences for eight defendants in some of Los Angeles County’s most horrendous killings,” including the torture-murder of an 8-year-old boy in Palmdale and the killings of five people at a homeless encampment in Long Beach.
The district attorney noted that the victims were diverse — six African-Americans, six whites, five Latinos and four Asian Pacific Islanders.
“I mention race because my office recently was criticized for its record on the death penalty,” Lacey wrote. “My prosecutors make decisions based on the facts of the crime — not the race of the defendant or the victim. In Los Angeles County, a committee of experienced and diverse prosecutors examine the facts of these cases, including mitigating circumstances presented by the defendant and his attorneys, in one of the nation’s most extensive review processes.”
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