A Los Angeles Superior Court judge recently made clear in court that California Penal Code stands “in the interest of justice,” over newly elected Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón’s radical news policies dismissing enhancements and special circumstances in criminal cases.
The Globe recently reported on Gascón’s new policies:
Within minutes of being sworn in, Gascón announced he would be getting rid of all crime enhancements, and eliminating cash bail, despite California voters rejecting the elimination of cash bail in the November election.
In a statement on his first day, D.A. George Gascón said this:
“The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office will advance an effective, ethical and racially equitable system of justice that protects the community, restores victims of crime, and honors the rights of the accused. We are a learning organization that believes in reduced incarceration and punishment except in circumstances in which it is proportional, in the community’s interest, and serves a rehabilitative or restorative purpose.”
Gascón says he believes enhancements are ineffective and racist and claims his policies are not unethical. Except his role as a District Attorney and prosecutor, is to be the chief prosecutor for local Los Angeles County.
The transcript from the case of PEOPLE v. RUDY DOMINGUEZ shows a very interesting back-and-forth between Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Arnold and LA Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Herring.
Deputy DA Herring filed a Motion to Dismiss the special circumstances, alleged sentencing enhancements – all gun enhancements and gang allegations – “in the interest of justice,” at the direction of LA County DA Gascon, in the Dominguez case.
Judge Arnold said: “And the interest of justice is met how?”
The victim was allegedly murdered by Rudy Dominguez. The victim’s family, who was in court December 15, 2020, was asked by Judge Arnold how they felt about the gun and gang enhancements being dismissed. “I just feel that we need justice and he needs – it’s just not fair that he — if he doesn’t get as much years,” the victim’s sister said. “So you don’t want to see these things get dismissed?” Judge Arnold asked. She answered “no.”
California Globe spoke with Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert recently about enhancements and why they are in the California Penal Code. As Schubert explained, enhancements are add ons to crimes. For most crimes, the penal code specifies a range of possible punishments, “depending on what’s happening during the crime.”
“One of the most basic enhancements is the use of a gun or weapon in a crime,” she said. “Another is if great bodily injury is inflicted on someone during the commission of a crime.”
Other enhancements are hate crimes and gang crimes.
Judge Arnold went on to explain “what the interest of justice means, pursuant to Penal Code Section 1385,” and the case of PEOPLE versus ORIN, a 1975 case. “The court says ‘in furtherance of justice’ means, at the very least, the reason for dismissal must motivate a reasonable judge.”
“ORIN says when determining if a dismissal furthers the interest of justice, the court must consider the interests of society, as well as the defendant’s Constitutional rights,” Judge Arnold said. “Society has an interest in the fair prosecution of properly alleged crimes and enhancements. Generally, if courts terminated prosecutions of crimes or enhancements under Penal Code 1385 without adequate reason, it would frustrate the orderly and effective operation of our criminal justice procedure as envisioned by the Legislature.”
“I don’t believe that your stated reasons justify dismissal in the interest of justice,” Judge Arnold told Deputy DA Herring.
Deputy Public Defender Traci Blackburn asked the judge if she could weigh in on the dismissal motion, and Judge Arnold’s reasoning, at which the judge said “the defense doesn’t have a voice in Penal Code Section 1385. It’s made by the Court or it’s made by the People. I will give you a chance.”
“Sentencing enhancements can be dismissed when they are firearm allegations under Penal Code Section 12022.5 subsection (C), and in this case I think it would be Penal Code Section 12022.53 Subsection (H),” Judge Arnold said. “It may very well be that the lack of record and the young age (of the defendant), that might be, at the time of sentencing, justification for striking an enhancement,” the judge said.
Deputy Public Defender Blackburn argued that the court (judge) cannot dismiss the enhancements. Judge Arnold asked her to explain. “The charging organization (District Attorney) – the charging agency has decided not to charge this case this way,” Blackburn said, essentially siding with DA Gascón. Judge Arnold asked her for case law as backup. “Tell me any case that says if the People move to dismiss an allegation, ipso facto the Judge has to do it,” Judge Arnold said. “What case stands for that?”
When the Public Defender’s office and District Attorney agree on the dismissal of enhancements, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
“If the charging agency says they want to delete the charges, I think that’s within their purview,” Deputy Public Defender Blackburn replied. “I’ll find you a case, your honor.”
Judge Arnold said he listened to Deputy DA Herring’s reason, and why he came forward with the Motion for Dismissal. “I don’t think it rises to the level of the interest of justice,” Judge Arnold said. And then he denied Deputy DA Herring’s Motion for Dismissal making it abundantly clear that DA Gascón’s blanket dismissal of all enhancements does not comport with state penal code and state law.
Only the California Legislature can pass laws – not the Governor, and not the Los Angeles County District Attorney.
The most dramatic part of that transcript is the end where Deputy Public Defender Blackburn reveals a super lenient back door deal on the case that had been assigned to Public Defender Tiffany Blacknell. Blacknell is on Gascon’s advisory committee and is allegedly being hired by him. She and Mario Trujillo came to a ridiculous plead deal for 7 Years on this murder without telling the assigned Deputy District Attorney or anyone in the chain of command. Many say this is a total conflict of interest by a Blacknell.
Expect to see more literal presentations in Los Angeles courts by frustrated LA County Deputy District Attorneys, while good plea deals are had by political cronies.
This trial will begin December 28, 2020.
Here is the transcript – it’s not long and is worth reading:LA County Sup Ct transcript