Sen. Kamala Harris is gearing up for a presidential run in 2020, and has been touting her years in the California justice system as relevant experience for the position.
However, while Harris did serve as California’s attorney general, the junior senator accumulated some skeletons in her prosecutorial closet during that time, according to a report from Reason.
In her recently released memoir, “The Truths We Hold,” Harris wrote, “The job of a progressive prosecutor is to look out for the overlooked, to speak up for those whose voices aren’t being heard, to see and address the causes of crime, not just their consequences, and to shine a light on the inequality and unfairness that lead to injustice.”
According to Reason’s C.J. Ciaramella, Harris’ track record as a “progressive prosecutor,” shows a problematic trail of injustices.
Ciaramella reported that Harris’ book is a “clear attempt by Harris to preemptively defend her record on criminal justice, which has emerged as an important issue, especially on the left flank of the Democratic Party.”
In the book, Harris recounts one of her first cases as a young prosecutor where she begged a judge to hear a case of an innocent person arrested during a drug raid.
Harris called it “a defining moment” in her life. “It was revelatory, a moment that proved how much it mattered to have compassionate people working as prosecutors,” she said.
Harris’ office, however, “continued to display indifference toward concerns of misconduct,” Reason reported.
“In March 2015, the California A.G. appealed the dismissal of a child molestation case after a Kern County prosecutor falsified an interview transcript to add an incriminating confession,” Ciaramella wrote.
The attorney general’s office argued that the prosecutor’s action “was certainly conscience shocking in the sense that it involved false testimony by a prosecutor in a formal criminal proceeding. But it did not involve ‘brutal and … offensive’ conduct employed to obtain a conviction.”
Reason reported another instance in which Harris opposed an appeal from a defendant who was sentenced after a prosecutor lied to the jury about an informant having received compensation for his testimony.
Despite this, Harris addressed the power of the criminal justice system and the potential for misconduct that power creates. “America has a deep and dark history of people using the power of the prosecutor as an instrument of injustice,” she wrote.
“I know this history well — of innocent men framed, of charges brought against people of color without sufficient evidence, of prosecutors hiding information that would exonerate defendants, of the disproportionate application of the law.”
However, certain cases that were handled by Harris’ office did not reflect the values that the current senator espouses today, including one on early prisoner release. Ciaramella reported that in 2014 Harris’ office opposed the prospect of California releasing its nonviolent inmates.
The California Attorney General’s office argued that “if forced to release these inmates early, prisons would lose an important labor pool.”
Harris later said that she was unaware and “shocked” to hear of her offices’ work on the case.
“Harris is now one of the most vocal advocates for criminal justice reform in the Senate and has sponsored several important bills,” Ciaramella reported.
“She has plenty to draw on from her Senate record to present herself as a progressive candidate, but if she wants to talk about her record as a prosecutor, well, we should speak some truth about that, too.”
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