August 2017
Volume 2, Issue 8
Dear Friends:

Two years ago, we were very fortunate to move into the newly renovated Hall of Justice.

We returned to a building that we occupied from 1925 to 1971.

Read the full remarks here.

Spotlight: Arson and Explosives Section

In arson cases, eyewitnesses are rare. Fingerprints are covered in ash and soot if not destroyed. When firefighters put out fires, they unknowingly destroy evidence.

These and other factors make arson cases uniquely challenging for investigators and prosecutors.

Since 2000, the District Attorney’s Office has assigned prosecutors to specifically address arson cases. Now known as the Arson and Explosives Section, it is comprised of three experienced prosecutors who are based in downtown Los Angeles but handle cases throughout the county.

The section prosecutes cases that result in death or serious injury to innocent victims and firefighters and cause millions of dollars in damage. Recent cases include the massive Da Vinci apartment complex fire in downtown Los Angeles in 2014 and a Pasadena house fire that killed two men in 2012. Prosecutors also assist other units in the office and outside agencies with their cases.

Arson and Explosives Section prosecutors work closely with local, state and federal arson and explosives investigators.

"Prosecutors are involved in arson investigations at the start," said Deputy District Attorney Joy Roberts, who has been with the section for two years. Roberts and her colleagues Rachel Bowers and Holly Harpham accompany investigators at crime scenes. Working closely with investigators is a significant plus, Roberts said.

“When you’re able to be right there, you can see what they see. You don’t have to think about it in the abstract by reading it in a report,” she said. “You can also help advise them about what makes a successful prosecution, such as things to photograph that a jury would appreciate.”

The prosecutors must understand the science of fire and explosives investigations to analyze law enforcement reports and evidence. They take part in trainings given by a host of agencies.

One training involves processing of crime scenes with human cadavers. Other trainings cover fire dynamics, the science of determining a fire’s cause and origin and fire effects on the human body.

Courses on explosive devices have covered homemade explosives and booby-traps used to thwart law enforcement. In one class, students watch live pyrotechnic and explosives detonations on the demolition range, then work to reconstruct what occurred.

“The training is fascinating and far from typical,” Roberts said. “But it is absolutely necessary to understand the complexity of the cases we prosecute.”

Fraud Alert
    Significant Cases
A travel agent offers plane tickets at a great discount, the client receives a confirmation but weeks later the hopeful traveler realizes it’s a con.

Read the Fraud Alert and watch the video here.

  • A 25-year-old man was charged with abusing Indie, his 3-month-old puppy. Read more about the case.

  • A Long Beach massage therapist pleaded no contest to killing a patient in an illegal buttocks enhancement procedure. Learn more about the charge.

  • Two 19-year-old men were charged in the death of a driver during an alleged street race on Pacific Coast Highway in Torrance. Discover more about their possible sentences.
Food from the Bar

The District Attorney’s Office participated in the Food from the Bar summer campaign sponsored by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. The office raised more than $3,000 and helped prepare 13,900 meals during a single day of service. For its efforts, the office was awarded a Silver Level Award. Deputy District Attorneys Stacie Mayoras, pictured left, and Kelly Howick, center, who led the officewide campaign, presented the award to District Attorney Jackie Lacey.

A Day in the Life: Marijuana Prosecutors

When Proposition 64 was approved by voters last November, Deputy District Attorney Ashley Rosen received a swarm of congratulatory calls and messages.

Her well-wishers thought her workload would be significantly reduced because the new law decriminalized the possession and cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis for adults 21 and older.

Little did Rosen’s colleagues know that the passage of the marijuana law would make the veteran prosecutor’s job a bit more complicated.

Rosen and Lance Wong, head deputy district attorney of the Major Narcotics Division, have taken the lead in cannabis enforcement for the District Attorney’s Office. They spend much of their time at meetings with other stakeholders to determine how Los Angeles County will cope with a myriad of issues over legalizing marijuana.

Los Angeles County recently enacted a ban against marijuana businesses and activities until it adopts a comprehensive framework for regulating cannabis. Currently, there are about 100 illegal dispensaries operating in unincorporated parts of the county, Wong said.

In order for marijuana businesses to legally operate in Los Angeles County, they must get local and state licenses. California must have its guidelines in place by Jan. 1, 2018, while local jurisdictions have been busy working on their own regulations.

“The biggest hurdle is commercial regulation,” Wong said. “We can ban it or regulate it. If marijuana is regulated, we want to make sure the businesses are doing it the right way.”

The new law also allows those who were convicted of a cannabis-related felony to seek a reduction or outright dismissal. Prosecutors expected an avalanche of requests from those convicted of such crimes, but there have been fewer petitions and applications than expected in Los Angeles County over the past seven months.

“Either some people just don’t know or some don’t care,” Rosen said.

Rosen and Wong have traveled to Colorado and Washington where voters approved similar marijuana laws. The visits helped them better understand the problems government agencies are experiencing.

“For the time being there is uncertainty,” Rosen said. “We have to work together to find the right solution.”
Did You Know...?

Oscar-winning actor Robert Mitchum, pictured left, was one of the Hall of Justice’s most well-known inmates. He served 60 days in county jail for smoking marijuana at a Laurel Canyon party in the 1940s. The then-30-year-old actor was under scrutiny by a law enforcement task force looking into drug use by entertainers. He is pictured here shortly after his release.

Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office | (213) 974-3512  |

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