Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Kamala Harris speaks at the Commonwealth Club tonight. Here's a resolution from the Bar Association supporting her position on the Hill case:

RESOLUTION OF THE BAR ASSOCIATION OF SAN FRANCISCO

WHEREAS, the Bar Association of San Francisco ("BASF") supports fair, impartial and effective law enforcement in the City and County of San Francisco;

WHEREAS, the BASF has the greatest admiration and respect for the men and women of the San Francisco Police Department ("SFPD") who carry out day-to-day policing in the City and County of San Francisco;

WHEREAS, the BASF shares the grief and outrage of the community at large over the tragic murder of SFPD Officer Isaac Espinoza and salutes the courage and valor of Officer Espinoza;

WHEREAS, the duly elected District Attorney for the County of San Francisco, Ms. Kamala Harris, has decided to charge David Hill, the suspected killer of Officer Espinoza, with first degree homicide carrying special circumstances against Hill, and to seek the penalty of life without the possibility of parole;

WHEREAS, District Attorney Harris has been the subject of recent well-publicized criticism for opting not to seek a sentence of death against Hill, and the resulting frenzy surrounding her decision not to seek the death penalty has turned what was and what should remain a matter of discretionary professional judgment into a matter of politics;

WHEREAS, the District Attorney has given reasons for her decision, and, as she has explained those reasons publicly, she has taken into account her evaluation of the facts and circumstances of the case in addition to broader policy considerations directed to the overall fairness, effectiveness, utility and expense of the death penalty,

WHEREAS, two United States Senators and more than forty members of the California state legislature have expressed the view that the death penalty should be sought against Hill, with no apparent appreciation or understanding that, under California law, charging decisions in death-eligible cases are committed to the discretion of the District Attorney in the county in which the crime occurred;

WHEREAS, following the announcement by legislators of their desire to see Ms. Harris seek the death penalty in the Hill case, the Attorney General of the State of California has announced that he is reviewing the case with an eye to taking control of it or becoming involved in some fashion, and the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California has indicated that he is considering whether to file federal charges against Hill;

WHEREAS, it is well-established in our law that prosecutorial decisions concerning whether to bring charges in a given case, and if so, what charges to bring, fall uniquely within the purview of the District Attorney as an officer of the Executive branch of state government, that a presumption of regularity supports those decisions, and that, absent clear evidence to the contrary, the exercise of prosecutorial discretion is not to be second-guessed.

WHEREAS, it is also well-established in our law that, in exercising the broad discretion committed to her, the District Attorney may consider such factors as the strength of the case, the prosecution's general deterrence value, and government enforcement priorities,

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS RESOLVED THAT the Bar Association of San Francisco, by and through its Board of Directors, resolves as follows:

The BASF supports the decision of Ms. Kamala Harris not to seek the death penalty in the case of People v. David Hill for three reasons:

· First, we believe that Ms. Harris' decision was a valid exercise of discretion by her as the duly elected District Attorney for the County of San Francisco, that Ms. Harris has considered all possible penalties, including death, and that Ms. Harris has given a reasoned basis for her decision not to seek death;

· Second, there is no legitimate reason to question the commitment of Ms. Harris to the fair, impartial and effective prosecution of this case, and absent clear evidence that Ms. Harris is unwilling or unable to discharge her prosecutorial functions, any involvement in the case by the Attorney General or the United States Attorney would undermine the effectiveness of Ms. Harris as our elected District Attorney and impinge on the traditional autonomy of all county District Attorneys in California;

· Third, given the broad authority Ms. Harris has as an officer of the Executive Branch, we perceive separation of powers problems when politicians from the legislative branch of government try to influence or control in any way prosecutorial judgments made in individual cases.

May 12, 2004

Jon B. Streeter, President

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