April 2018
Volume 3, Issue 4
Dear Friends:
In the District Attorney's Office and across the country, we recognize the week of April 8 as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

But this year, my office’s ability to support victims and keep them safe is imperiled by state budget cuts proposed by the Governor’s Office.
Spotlight: Conviction Review Unit
In the Conviction Review Unit, the work prosecutors perform may seem a bit different, but the commitment to justice is exactly the same.

The unit, created by District Attorney Jackie Lacey, is responsible for reviewing claims of actual innocence and newly discovered evidence from inmates, attorneys and innocence projects.

Nearly 1,500 claims have been submitted to the unit since it began operation in October 2015. Most do not meet the criteria for review, which requires that the convict still be in custody, that the crime is violent and serious and that there is new credible evidence of innocence.

After Robert Grace, the unit’s deputy-in-charge, conducts an initial review, he assigns claims meeting the criteria to the unit’s three experienced trial prosecutors for a more in-depth look.

Many of these cases are old, requiring some of the same skills used to investigate a cold case. Deputy district attorneys may work with the unit’s two full-time investigators to try to locate new witnesses or re-interview those whose testimony may have changed over time. They also may ask for further scientific investigation if there is DNA or ballistic evidence.

Each of the unit’s prosecutors currently is working on 25 claims. That number may increase as the office in December expanded its review criteria to include confessions made by juvenile offenders and guilty pleas.

To date, two claims have resulted in murder convictions being vacated.

“The standard by which we judge our work is not by the number of claims that we review that result in exoneration,” said Brian Schirn, head deputy of the office’s Post-Conviction Litigation and Discovery Division, “but by the satisfaction of knowing that every case we review has gone through a rigorous process where we have asked the question: ‘Was the right thing done here?'"
Fraud Alert
  Significant Cases
Tax season is the busy season for identity thieves. Be careful when sharing your personal and tax information – particularly online.

Read the Fraud Alert here .
  • Seven people face conspiracy charges for allegedly following bank customers in Torrance, Van Nuys and Rowland Heights and robbing them – a practice known as “bank jugging.” Read about the charges.

  • A Panorama City man was charged in a string of armed robberies at high-end restaurants in the San Fernando Valley. Learn about the man police dubbed the “End of Watch Bandit.”

  • A televised police pursuit ending in a Metro tunnel caught the public’s eye in February. Discover how much time this defendant will serve in state prison.
Ask the Mental Health Training Coordinator
Sandy Jo MacArthur, the office’s mental health training coordinator, pictured, answers questions about the District Attorney’s effort to train first responders on how to de-escalate incidents involving individuals in a mental health crisis.

Why is this important?
Law enforcement officers are often the first ones called when a person is experiencing a mental health crisis. An officer who is better equipped to recognize that a person is in a mental health crisis is more likely to resolve issues in a calm manner. This helps protect the lives of both the person involved and the officer.

What is its impact?
First responders leave our course more empathetic toward people with mental illness and their families. They are trained to recognize the symptoms of mental illness and respond appropriately. They also meet a person with mental illness and a family member, who describe the impact of this disease on their lives. This conversation helps build the empathy first responders need to successfully resolve these potentially dangerous encounters.

What do first responders learn?
Most say they never knew so many people were affected by mental illness or that families depend on law enforcement when a family member is in crisis. They also learn that most people in a mental health crisis struggle to comprehend what is happening to them and often are unable to follow simple instructions.

Why is LADA involved?
As the first step in improving the way people with mental illness are treated in the criminal justice system, District Attorney Jackie Lacey determined that her office would take the lead in training first responders from smaller police agencies on how to safely de-escalate these incidents. To date, the District Attorney’s Criminal Justice Institute has trained nearly 1,300 police officers and other first responders from 63 agencies.
Did You Know...?
In 2017, the District Attorney’s 80 victim services representatives assisted 21,335 crime victims with emergency needs, counseling referrals, restitution and compensation for crime-related losses. Assistance is available in several languages. All services are free and there is no legal residency requirement .
Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office | (213) 974-3512 | info@da.lacounty.gov

Not signed up for our newsletter? Click here to join our email list.