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LA Board of Supes Delays Vote on Motion for Blue Ribbon Commission for Probation Reform.

October 7th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon


On Tuesday, the members of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors were slated to vote on a motion to create a Blue Ribbon Commission on Probation Reform. The proposed commission, if formed, would be tasked with the goal of assessing problems within the troubled LA County Probation Department, and then recommending reforms to better protect and rehabilitate the approximately 1000 kids in the county’s 13 juvenile camps and three juvenile halls, along with improving the lot of the approximately 72,00 adults under county supervision, particularly the AB 109 probationers who need help with reentry in order to better restart their lives

Supervisor Shiela Kuehl proposed that a vote on the motion, be postponed for two more weeks in order to fine-tune the shape and function of the Blue Ribbon Commission that the motion proposes.

As it stands now, Tuesday’s motion-–sponsored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis—calls for the creation of a 12-member commission, with two members to be appointed by each of the supervisors, one with expertize in the juvenile side, the other with experience on the adult side. The remaining two commissioners would be chosen by the first ten from a pool of possibilities put forth by the board. The commission would be chosen in early November, and sunset after six months, with the commission’s recommendations for reform due to the board on May 4, 2017.

The motion makes a general case for why such a commission is called for on top of the working group that is presently exploring what kind of civilian oversight is needed to monitor the probation department.

It describes the bad old days in probation’s recent past that, on the juvenile side, brought Department of Justice monitors into the halls and camps from 2004 to 2015, along with a monster class action suit filed in 2010, “due to the failure” of probation “to provide adequate education to youth in the camps,” even “locking students in solitary confinement for weeks or months without attending school.”

The motion goes on to detail the string of red flags still conspicuously visible in the department, that make clear that all is not well. There are, for example, the audits and investigations of the last two years that “have revealed staff misconduct and mismanagement of funds,” like the stunning amounts of unused state grant funds that probation has been squirreling away under its mattress, namely the $140.5 million of SB 678 funds, that should have been used for reentry programs for AB 109 probationers, and the over $21 million in unspent Juvenile Justice and Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA) funds intended to support programs that help kids stay out of the justice system.

(WLA reported the stories here and here).

Then there are the latest alarming revelations, like the news that use of force incidents in the county’s juvenile halls nearly doubled from January to July 2016, and that there were other “allegations of misconduct in the camps and halls”—such as WLA’s recent stories about staff allegedly assaulting kids in two different juvenile halls.

The board previously created the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence, and the Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection, the recommendations from which helped to bring about positive changes for the troubled Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and for the county’s chronically dysfunctional Department of Children and Family Services.

The motion suggests hopefully that a similar “panel of independent experts could spur the same type of change that is so badly needed in the [Probation] Department.”


Most of the reform advocates who spoke on the issue at Tuesday’s meeting said they were in favor of the motion, and supported the idea of the commission. But most also presented some kind of caveat or cautionary note.

For example, Max Huntsman, L.A. County’s Inspector General appointed to oversee the Sheriff’s Department, reminded the board that the problems it hopes the commission will correct, have been present “for decades.” He knows this, he said, because of his own experiences in the juvenile camps when he began as a prosecutor, 25 years ago.

Huntsman told those assembled how, on one trip to one of the camps, he “observed a deputy probation officer” giving a speech to kids first arriving at the facility “in which he urged them not to be homosexual.” And “that was their introduction to their new custody experience,” Huntsman said adding that although the DPO’s startling speech was the “first disillusioning thing” he witnessed at the probation department, “it wasn’t the last.”

Probation commissioner, Sal Martinez, who spent time in the camps himself as a teenager, said he hoped the proposed commission will introduce “a blueprint of reform and transparency” with “the mission and vision” of rebuilding the lives of the kids in the county’s care. “Those kids need you,” he said.


Not all of the juvenile advocates who spoke were convinced that the Blue Ribbon Commission idea was the answer.

Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition noted that the county has, at present, 169 commissions, thus if this commission was going to be launched, she said she wanted to know that it was going to be done the right way. Most importantly, said McGill, the plan must necessitate that some of the commissioners be “people who have been impacted by the system.” Before she supported the motion, McGill said, “we want an opportunity for real engagement with the community” on the issue. And that any leadership body must “prioritize a moratorium on jail expansion and the closing of at least one juvenile hall, and half of the camps.”

Javier Stauring who, for the last twenty years oversaw the detention ministry programs in all the juvenile halls and probation camps in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, was also very concerned about the make-up of any commission.

“True reform will only happen when the people calling the shots see the children under probation’s jurisdiction as if they were their own children.”

For years, he said, experts been “telling the gatekeepers that what our youth really need is help in processing and healing from the trauma that is all too common and disproportionately impacts families who struggle with the effects of poverty.

He supported the commission, Stauring said finally. “But only if it’s made up of people who love our children.”

The revised motion to create a Blue Ribbon Commission on Probation Reform is now due to come to a vote on Tuesday, October 18.

In the meantime, there is no firm word on when the board will make its selection for the new probation chief.

Posted in Probation | No Comments »

LASD and Community Mourn the Loss of Well-Liked Sgt. Steve Owen—UPDATED

October 6th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

UPDATE: The man accused of shooting Sgt. Steve Owen has been identified as 27-year-old Trenton Trevon Lovell.

Lovell has been charged with capital murder, attempted murder of the second responding sheriff’s deputy, as well as being a felon in possession of a gun, and two counts each of first-degree residential robbery and false imprisonment.

On Wednesday, a county-wide outpouring of grief and gratitude followed the news of the murder of Sergeant Steven Owen of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Just after 12:00p.m. on Wednesday, Sgt. Owen was shot in the face while responding to a call about a residential burglary taking place in Lancaster.

Sgt. Owen, 53, was the first of two responders to make it to the home, which was in the 3200 block of W. Avenue J-7. Owen moved to the rear of the residence in order to try to contain the suspected burglar, identified as a local parolee.

The man reportedly then confronted Owen and opened fire, shooting him in the face. The second responding deputy ran from the front of the house to the back after hearing the gunshots. According to the sheriff’s department, the suspect then hopped in Owen’s patrol car and slammed it into the second deputy’s vehicle, at which point the deputy fired at and hit the suspect in the upper torso. Despite suffering a gunshot wound, the man was able to escape on foot.

The shooter was ultimately captured by deputies after he broke into another home—this one occupied by two teenagers. As the man exited the second house, the sheriff’s department’s Special Enforcement Bureau used less than lethal devices to keep him from re-entering the home, and the teens were then rescued. The suspect was taken into custody by deputies from the Lancaster station. Officers reportedly recovered a weapon at the scene.

Owen was taken to the hospital, where he later died from his wounds. Owen’s wife, sons, and mom were able to be with him in the hospital when he died.

Owen’s death was a shocking blow to the sheriff’s department and the community he served for 29 years before being killed in the line of duty.

“The tragedy of a deputy sheriff such as Sergeant Steve Owen making the ultimate sacrifice has a massive impact on the whole law enforcement family,” said LASD Sheriff Jim McDonnell. “We all mourn together and our hearts go out especially to Steve’s immediate family Tania, a detective at Arson/Explosives Detail, his two adult sons Brandon and Chad, a step-daughter Shannon and his mother Millie.”

Owen was well-respected by those he worked with and went “above and beyond with respect to youth activities and community involvement,” according to LASD Executive Officer Neal Tyler who characterized the horrific shooting as “the thing we all dread.”

Many of Owen’s fellow law enforcement officers expressed deep sorrow over his death. “Steve was a 29-year vet still working out on the street,” a retired sheriff’s department member who worked with Owen told WitnessLA. “Most folks with that amount of time aren’t suiting up anymore. It’s a testament to him and the quality of man he was.”

Owen received a Meritorious Conduct Medal for his role in safely rescuing a man who was being held hostage by an armed suspect wearing a bulletproof vest, without use of lethal force.

The sergeant was also one of three sheriff’s department members who, last July, found and rescued a 13-month-old girl who had been left alone in a shed by a pimp who had allegedly abducted the baby from a woman whom he had reportedly been abusing and commercially exploiting.

“Emotions are very high within the LASD,” said another source close to the department, who also noted that the sergeant was “only a couple of years from retirement.”

“All of our ALADS members will be grieving the loss of Sergeant Owen who was well respected by his colleagues,” the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs said in a statement. “Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs put their lives at risk every time they put on the uniform. This horrible tragedy is another reminder of the dangers and sacrifice law enforcement personnel face protecting the county’s citizens and businesses.”

The Professional Peace Officers Association (PPOA), the union to which Owen belonged as a department supervisor, also sent out a statement of grief and remembrance. “Sheriff’s Sergeant Steve Owen represented the best among us,” wrote PPOA President Brian Moriguchi. “He loved helping others and made the Antelope Valley a better place to live. Steve risked his life every day to make the community safer.”

California Governor Jerry Brown announced that the state capitol’s flags would be flown at half-staff.

LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who knew Sgt. Owen, called him an “outstanding law enforcement professional,” and said that the loss of Owen “leaves a significant void” for everyone who knew him.

“Steve was one of the bravest, hardest working street cops I’ve ever met,” the department retiree told WLA. “He was an LASD legend.”

Posted in LASD, Obits | 28 Comments »

Many Mourn Respected LA Sheriff’s Sergeant Steven Owen, Slain in Lancaster

October 5th, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

Like many in Los Angeles County, we are devastated at the news of the fatal shooting of highly-respected Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sergeant Steven Owen, 53,
who died on Wednesday after being shot by a suspect while responding to a call about a residential burglary in Lancaster.

We will have a full story about Sergeant Owen late tonight. In the meantime, our thoughts go out to Sergeant Owen’s wife, his two grown sons, his step-daughter, extended family and friends, and the many members of the Los Angeles County law enforcement community who knew Steve Owens as a friend and colleague, plus the members of the wider LA County community, many of whom also knew and valued him, and whom he protected and served for 29 years.

Posted in LASD, Life in general, Uncategorized | No Comments »

From Juvie to Juvenile Law: Frankie Guzman’s Unlikely Journey — By Lisa Weinzimer

October 5th, 2016 by witnessla


As we move closer to the November election, the debate about California Governor Jerry Brown’s ballot initiative—Proposition 57—is heating up.

Prop. 57 would take the power to transfer kids to adult court out of the hands of prosecutors and give the control back to judges. It would also as increase parole eligibility for non-violent offenders who have completed the base sentence for their primary offense and boost access to early release credits.

In the story below, which originally appeared on The Chronicle of Social Change, Lisa Weinzimer introduces Frankie Guzman, who spent a big chunk of his teenage years behind bars before redirecting his life. Now Guzman is an attorney with the National Center for Youth Law (and a Soros Justice Fellow). This year, Guzman was among the attorneys, advocates, and others who penned Prop. 57, which he believes voters will approve come November.

While the portion of the ballot measure that affects adult sentencing is important (and the most controversial section of the proposed law), Weinzimer’s story focuses on the juvenile justice side of Prop. 57.


By Lisa Weinzimer

In 1995, when Frankie Guzman was 15, living in the impoverished community of La Colonia in the city of Oxnard, California, his older friend came to his house to ask for a favor.

The friend needed cash. His request: Help me to rob a liquor store.

“It was a terrible idea – something I wasn’t at all interested in doing,” Guzman said in a recent interview.

Frankie Guzman, a former juvenile offender, is now an advocate and attorney with National Center for Youth Law.

But as his friend was walking away, Guzman started feeling guilty. He worried about what would happen if his friend robbed the store alone. So they bought guns, stole ski masks and gloves from a store, and drove to the liquor store at noon on a Saturday, Guzman said.

Shortly after they got away with $300 from the store’s register, the teens were caught and arrested.

Because of their one-year age difference, Guzman and his friend were sent into different justice systems. Guzman’s friend, age 16, was charged as an adult. To this day, Guzman has no idea where life has taken him.

Guzman was charged as a juvenile. A judge handed him a 15-year sentence—the maximum allowed at the time—at the California Youth Authority (CYA), the state’s prison system for youth (which has since been renamed the Division of Juvenile Justice and drastically reduced in size). Guzman was released early, and returned to his community at 19, but the time behind bars had troubled him deeply.

“I’m out for three months with a whole lot more issues and baggage and trauma than I went in with, and really wasn’t able to function on the outside,” Guzman said.

Guzman did two more stints in juvenile lock-up until, at age 21, he started thinking differently.

“I was hopeless and desperate, and afraid of failure,” he said. “And in my mind, at that time, failure was prison or a grave, or leading a meaningless worker’s life. And so I went to community college and I tried to do something different.”

It was at Oxnard Community College, not in the juvenile justice system, where Guzman was rehabilitated, he said.

“At community college–not only was it not a prison state—it was a place of nurturing and education and rehabilitation,” he said.

Guzman went on to study at the University of California, Berkeley and then to law school at the University of California, Los Angeles.

A recipient of a Soros Justice Fellowship, Guzman now works with the National Center for Youth Law, helping youth who, like him, have become enmeshed in the state’s juvenile justice system.

By any measure, Guzman has overcome long odds on his way to becoming an attorney and juvenile justice advocate. But his story is especially important as Guzman works to keep today’s youth out of the criminal justice system with a California ballot measure that intends to stem the flow of juveniles into the adult court system.

Set to go before California voters in November, Prop. 57 would abolish district attorneys’ discretion to prosecute youth as adults, and also enact sentencing reforms for adults.

Prop. 57 would reverse the worst elements of Prop. 21, an initiative passed in 2000 that allowed prosecutors to file charges against youth as young as 14 in adult court, and expanded the list of offenses for which youth could be charged as adults.

The new ballot measure would grant judges sole power to decide whether to move a minor’s case into the adult court system.

Guzman worked with other juvenile attorneys, advocates and community leaders to write the proposition, and Gov. Jerry Brown later agreed to sponsor it and provide funding to promote it, Guzman said.

Guzman also helped write a June report that analyzed data on youth in California who were prosecuted as adults. In “The Prosecution of Youth as Adults,” he and two co-authors found that while serious felony arrests have dropped 55 percent across the state since 2003, county district attorneys in the state charged youth as adults at a 23 percent higher rate per capita in 2014 than in 2003.

“Direct file”—a process that allows prosecutors to originate a juvenile’s case in adult court for certain offenses—was originally meant to be used only in extraordinary circumstances, but Guzman and his team found that in 2014, 80 percent of youth transferred to the state’s adult criminal justice system were placed there by prosecutors.

“Prosecutors don’t understand, in large measure, how much these kids have the cards stacked against them,” Guzman said. “By virtue of their role as prosecutors, they are extremely biased against defendants and their role is one of convicting. It is not increasing public safety through rehabilitation. It is incapacitation through a conviction.”

With the November vote drawing close, Guzman said he is optimistic that voters will approve Prop. 57, despite noting that some district attorneys are painting the ballot measure as being soft on crime.

“Currently the only thing that would in any way suggest that we might have a problem is the untruths that DAs are putting out there, which to me are not a problem,” Guzman said. “I don’t believe they are going to carry much weight or water.”

Guzman is now 36. His life has taken him from robbing that liquor store at age 15 to, earlier this year, getting summoned by Gov. Brown to discuss and finalize Prop. 57.

It has been an unlikely journey, and it has led him to what he is doing right now – in this unusual election season – fighting for the passage of a ballot measure that he hopes will keep young people out of the adult criminal justice system.

It is one of 17 propositions on the ballot. As November approaches, Guzman’s work is far from over.

“I’m very excited about it,” Guzman said. “But the big fight is still to get people to vote for it.”

Lisa Weinzimer wrote this story as part of the Journalism for Social Change massive online open course.

The Chronicle of Social Change’s Holden Slattery contributed to this story, which CSC has kindly allowed us to reprint.

Photo: Frankie Guzman

Posted in Justice Reform, juvenile justice | 4 Comments »

Gov. Brown’s Bill-Signing (and Vetoing): The Final Roundup

October 4th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

Friday was the final day for California Governor Jerry Brown to sign or veto bills passed by state lawmakers this year. This is WLA’s third and final roundup of the fates of justice-related bills we’ve followed in 2016. (Here are parts one and two, in case you missed them.)


On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 1052, a bill introduced by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) that would have restricted the way law enforcement officers can interrogate kids during a criminal investigation, and would have required juveniles suspected of crimes to consult with an attorney before they can waive their constitutional right to remain silent.

Three days later, on Monday, the US Supreme Court chose not to intervene in the case of Joseph H, a 10-year-old from Riverside who was sentenced to more than a decade behind bars for the murder of his abusive neo-Nazi father. Joseph waived his Miranda rights and confessed to the murder. When a police officer asked Joseph, who has developmental issues, if he understood his Miranda rights, the boy said, “Yes, that means I have the right to remain calm.”

In refusing to step in, the high court has effectively said that children as young as Joseph are competent enough to validly waive their right to remain silent. (Back in August WLA ran a story by the Chronicle of Social Change’s Jeremy Loudenback about SB 1052 and Joseph H’s plight.)

Back in California, Brown penned a particularly long veto message explaining his difficult decision to reject SB 1052 based on an incomplete understanding of the possible “ramifications” of the bill. Here’s a clip:

“In more cases than not, both adult and juvenile suspects waive these rights and go on to answer an investigator’s questions. Courts uphold these “waivers” of rights as long as the waiver is knowing and voluntary. It is rare for a court to invalidate such a waiver.

Recent studies, however, argue that juveniles are more vulnerable than adults and easily succumb to police pressure to talk instead of remaining silent. Other studies show a much higher percentage of false confessions in the case of juveniles.

On the other hand, in countless cases, police investigators solve very serious crimes through questioning and the resulting admissions or statements that follow.

These competing realities raise difficult and troubling issues and that is why I have consulted widely to gain a better understanding of what is at stake. I have spoken to juvenile judges, police investigators, public defenders, prosecutors and the proponents of this bill. I have also read several research studies cited by the proponents and the most recent cases dealing with juvenile confessions.


Brown signed AB 1909, a bill to rein in prosecutorial misconduct in California by raising the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for prosecutors who intentionally withhold exculpatory evidence from the defense.

“Those individuals who are willing to win a case at all costs, who abuse their power as officers of the court, must answer for their actions,” said the bill’s author, Assemblymember Patty Lopez (D-San Francisco).


A bill that aims to standardize the way California’s local probation departments gather and report data on the kids in the juvenile justice system, AB 1998, also made it past Brown’s desk on Friday.

Currently, there’s “no state-level capacity to track recidivism or other important outcomes” like education, mental health, and child welfare status. Nor does the current system capture data on outcomes based on types of probation violations, or by types of facilities in which kids are placed (juvenile hall vs. a camp, for example) and length of stay.

The bill, introduced by Assm. Nora Campos (D-San Jose), will create guidelines for how probation departments collect data and share it with the state. Unfortunately, the guidelines cannot be enforced.

“Racial disparity is perhaps the most important issue facing our juvenile justice system, and we need good data to guide our restorative efforts,” Campos said. “AB 1998 will help state and local governments develop better information on how state funds and local programs are contributing to community safety.”


Brown also signed SB 1004, which will launch pilot programs in five counties allowing 18 to 21-year-olds convicted of low-level youthful offenses to be placed in juvenile facilities, rather than adult facilities.

The bill, introduced by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), will make it easier for young offenders to have access to the education and support systems unique to juvenile detention centers. SB 1004′s pilot programs will be held in Alameda, Napa, Santa Clara, Nevada, and Butte Counties.

In his signing message, Brown calls the bill a “promising start” but calls on lawmakers to also “explore options such as non-custody based diversion.”


Also in Brown’s signed pile are AB 2888 and AB 701, bill inspired by the very unpopular six-month jail sentence given to Stanford rapist Brock Turner.

Under current law, many felony sex crimes—rape by force, aggravated sexual assault of a child, and others—disqualify those convicted from receiving a sentence of probation. Prison time must be served.

However, some forms of sexual assault—digital penetration of someone who is unconscious or too intoxicated to consent (a la Brock Turner), for example—does not carry a mandatory prison sentence. AB 2888 and AB 701 intend to bring these other nonconsensual sexual assaults onto the same level as what is currently legally considered rape.

Opponents of AB 2888 argued that the bill creates new mandatory minimum sentences, as justice reformers and lawmakers work to reduce the prevalence of mandatory minimums, which disproportionately affect people of color.

Also signed into law were AB 1744, which requires all counties to use the same standardized rape kit, and AB 2499, which forces the state Department of Justice to improve its database, so that victims of sexual assault can track the status of their kits.

Posted in children and adolescents, juvenile justice, Rape, Rehabilitation, Sentencing, Supreme Court | No Comments »

LA County Supes to Vote on Creating a Blue Ribbon Commission on Probation Reform — UPDATED

October 4th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

UPDATE: On Tuesday, after hearing from advocates and others concerned about certain aspects of a motion to create a Blue Ribbon Commission on Probation Reform, the LA County Supervisors decided to postpone the scheduled vote for two more weeks in order to clarify and improve on the proposed plan. WLA will have more on this story tomorrow.

Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is slated to consider a motion to form a Blue Ribbon Commission on Probation Reform (similar to the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence) to assess problems within the troubled department and to coordinate and bring about reforms to better protect and rehabilitate kids in camps and the youth and adults under supervision.

Here’s a clip from the motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis explaining the need for a blue ribbon panel:

Significant work is underway with the potential to produce meaningful outcomes; however, there is a deficiency in the synchronization of all the current moving elements. A commitment to existing efforts is critical, but integration is required to ensure that true culture change in the Department can be sustained.

Furthermore, new evidence continues to emerge that the Department is still troubled and that additional strategies are needed. As an example, the Department presented data to the Probation Commission showing that use of force incidents in the juvenile halls had nearly doubled from January to July 2016. Other allegations of misconduct in the camps and halls have also surfaced, indicating systemic issues. Despite years of attempted reform, and a growing price tag of operating the camps and halls (with an estimate from a Department audit of a rate of $552 per youth per day), there is widespread concern amongst the Board, Department leadership, and community stakeholders that sustainable reform has yet to be realized. Moreover, the current efforts, while bold and important, are not exhaustive. Gaps still remain in what the Board is currently assessing regarding Department reform. These gaps include: the implementation of state mandates aimed at the adult population, including SB 678 and AB 109; communication and coordination with other agencies serving the same youth and families; racial and ethnic disparities in youth detention and incarceration; inadequate high-quality alternatives to incarceration; and a process for calculating the allocation of Department resources, including opportunities for community input.

The Department’s continued struggle to fulfill its mission of keeping its clients safe, let alone provide for their rehabilitation, underscores that more is still needed and that new approaches should be explored. The time has come for the Board to confirm its commitment to transparency, accountability and sustained transformation. The Board would be best informed by an independent review from an external panel of recognized experts on how, in coordinating the many existing efforts aimed at structural reform and adopting other necessary policy and practice changes, the Department can finally fulfill its mission of protecting, rehabilitating and supervising youth and adults. This type of independent review has been essential in moving forward change in other areas. For example, the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence was the impetus for creating the Office of Inspector General, which is positioned to play a prominent role moving forward in providing meaningful oversight of and pushing forward improvements in the jails.

The ACLU of Southern California supports the motion. (So does WitnessLA.) “The Commission is needed because of both the significant and longstanding problems within the Department over the past decade or more and the need for a comprehensive, and unified set of recommendations to chart a path for change for the Department,” said SoCal ACLU’s Chief Counsel, Peter Eliasberg in a letter to the board.

In addition, the ACLU expressed concerns about three of the five candidates identified as finalists by WitnessLA, stating that it “does not believe they have the necessary background and experience to move the department beyond its troubled past.”

We’ll let you know what happens at the Supes’ meeting.

Posted in Juvenile Probation, LA County Board of Supervisors, Probation | No Comments »

In Los Angeles Community Anger Erupts Over Two Weekend Shootings – UPDATED

October 3rd, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

Saturday’s fatal shooting of 18-year-old Carnell Snell Jr.—known as CJ—by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department
has sparked two days of demonstrations and vigils by community members who viewed the shooting as yet another example of officers too quick to fire on black and Latino men in tense situations.

The protests caused a citywide tactical alert to be called just before 10 p.m. Sunday night. Officers described the original Sunday protests and vigils as “peaceful,” but said that the mood changed when individuals whom they described as “outside agitators” arrived and, according to the police, began jumping on the roofs of cars, and engaging in other forms of vandalism.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced Monday that Snell was shot and killed after he allegedly turned toward officers with a gun in his hand. According to Beck, a loaded .40 mm handgun was recovered a few feet from Snell’s body. The gun had not been fired. (SEE UPDATE BELOW)

The officers involved were not wearing body cams according to Beck.

The incident began when officers cruising in the area of 108th Street and Western Avenue saw a car they thought might be stolen, and followed the vehicle, which was a light blue Nissan, and appeared to have one passenger, which they now believe was Snell. When Snell and the driver bailed from the car and took off in opposite directions, officers pursued Snell. Various neighbors and Snell’s sister, Trenell Snell, claim to have seen part of the pursuit that led to the shooting, which took in back of a house on 107th Street.

Hot-running emotions over Snell’s death were further stoked by the death of a Latino man shot by officers around 5 p.m. on Sunday, after police responded to a report of a male with a gun near 48th Street and Ascot Avenue. The gun, which the man allegedly pointed at officers, turned out to be an orange-tipped replica, the tip of which had been colored black, according to police accounts.* In the case of the second shooting, officers reportedly did have operational body cameras.

Beck described the investigations of Snell’s death, and that of the man killed in the Sunday shooting, as “fluid and ongoing.”

Reporters and other observers who examined the scene of Snell’s shooting in the backyard of a home in the 1700 block of 107th Street said they observed multiple bullet holes in the side of the house and another hole in an ajacent window.


Due to conflicting stories about whether or not Carnell Snell was carrying a gun during his run from police, on Tuesday Chief Charlie Beck released a short surveillance video that reportedly depicts Snell a few moments before he was shot. Snell is running in the parking lot of a convince store before disappearing behind the store building. A gun can clearly be seen in his hand. Police can be seen running after Snell after he disappears from view.

After the release of the video, Tuesday morning’s police commission meeting was repeatedly disrupted by upset protester, who shouted that if the LAPD could release this video, they could release others. At the same meeting, commission president Matt Johnson stated that, within two weeks, he will recommend a process for the commission to evaluate the Los Angeles Police Department’s video policy, reported the LA Times’ Kate Mather, who was tweeting from the meeting.

NOTE: LA Times reporters Kate Mather, Cindy Chang, Matt Hamilton and James Queally have been following the situation with multiple stories including those here and here and here.

The photo of Carnell Snell Jr. was acquired from Facebook.

*CORRECTIONS: Monday, 3:50 pm: In an earlier draft we incorrectly wrote that the tip of the replica gun was still orange. It was painted or colored black prior to the time of the shooting.

Monday, 6:40 p.m. We also left out the fact that the allegation that Snell had a gun and, more importantly, that he pointed the gun at police, is just that: an unproven allegation. The oversight has since been corrected.

Posted in LAPD | 30 Comments »

“Shout Her Name!” – Demonstration Over Suicides at California Institution For Women (CIW) Aims to Raise Pressure on CDCR

October 3rd, 2016 by Celeste Fremon

Cars full of protesters started showing up in the early afternoon on Saturday, October 1,
in front of the California Institution for Woman, the Chino, California prison that this year has become best known for a plague of suicides and suicide attempts.

By 2:45 pm around 80 people had arrived at the vigil, many carrying signs, most of the demonstrators women themselves, some of them former inmates. Others were family members of inmates. Many wore T-shirts with the names of the prisoners who have died at their own hands at CIW. Some of the names were written, as has become the fashion, with hashtags: #ShayleneGraves #ErikaRocha #AliciaThompson #ShadaeSchmidt #StephanieFeliz #MargaritaMurugia #LauraAnnRamos #GuiFeiZhang…

Since the beginning of 2013, through this past summer, six women have succeeded in killing themselves at CIW. During that same period, there have been 73 serious attempts, according to the last figures from the California Department of Corrections, although advocate groups like the Coalition for Women Prisoners believe the attempt numbers are much higher. And the attempts themselves are often very serious indeed, like the hanging attempt last spring that reportedly put a woman in a coma.

The suicide rates at CIW are reportedly five times the state average, and nearly five times the national average for all female inmates in state prisons.

According to the vigil’s organizers, the protesters had come to demand that the California Department of Corrections(CDCR) and CIW be “held responsible” for verbal abuse, sexual abuse, emotional isolation, unchecked bullying, neglect and unresponsive mental health care that prison advocates believe has allowed so many deaths—and near deaths—in CIW custody to occur.

(In August, former imate DeEtta Williamsfiled a lawsuit alleging daily sexual abuse by a guard for six months during her stay at CIW.)

“I don’t want any other family to go through what my family has gone through,” Freida Rocha told the smattering of reporters who came to cover the event. Freida Rocha’s sister Erika Rocha, 35, killed herself in April right before the parole hearing that family members believed would lead to her release.

“My daughter’s death will not go unanswered,” shouted Sheri Graves, the mother of Shaylene Graves, who, at 27, was found hanging in her cell on June 1, after pleading with officials for a “bed move,” explaining that she was being unmercifully bullied. When she died, Shaylene Graves was due to be released in six weeks after having served an eight-year sentence.

“We are here to make sure the world hears their cries,” Sheri Graves said to the crowd. “Their lives matter and they will not die in prison.”

State Sen. Connie M. Leyva, D-Chino, has called upon the state auditor to look into suicides in the troubled prison.

WLA has reported on CIW and the rash of suicides here and here. And be sure to check out stories by the LA Weekly’s Hillel Aron, who has been doing an excellent job following this important issue.

Posted in health care, prison policy, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Bill Roundup—Round 2

September 30th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

On Wednesday, WLA posted a list of noteworthy bills signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown. As the governor decides the fate of dozens of bills each day this week before his September 31 signing (and vetoing) deadline, WLA has gathered a second roundup of relevant justice-related bills we’ve been following this year.


On Thursday, Governor Brown signed an important bill to rein in police officers’ ability to seize money and/or property that may be tied to a crime (usually a drug crime), without due process.

Law enforcement agencies in California and other states circumvent their own states’ forfeiture laws through the controversial federal Equitable Sharing Program, which creates a loophole allowing police, by bringing feds into an investigation, to use seized money as revenue, with only the suspicion that laws have been broken. Across the nation, local agencies are abusing the tool and using it as a cash cow, taking money and property from people who have not been convicted of a crime.

SB 443, introduced by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), blocks law enforcement from bypassing California’s civil asset forfeiture laws. To take advantage of the controversial Equitable Sharing Program without a conviction, the seized cash must be over $40,000.

“Solutions like SB 443 give communities plagued by injustice some relief,” said Zachary Norris, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “Low income people simply do not have the means to hire an attorney to get their lawfully earned cash returned to them. When their money gets taken by law enforcement, it’s a family crisis affecting rent, food, everything.”

Last year, a version of the asset forfeiture reform bill could not survive lobbying from law enforcement groups.

“SB 443 will not only rein in the abuse in California, but also offers a blueprint for workable solutions to other states seeking reforms. We applaud Governor Brown for signing it,” said Mica Doctoroff, a legislative advocate at the ACLU of California Center for Advocacy and Policy.


SB 813, a controversial bill that eliminates the statute of limitations for rape and other sex crimes, also made it past Brown’s desk.

The bill, introduced by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino), was propelled by the more than 30 rape allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, many of which have passed beyond the current 10-year statute of limitations. The new law will not, however, apply retroactively.


Brown also signed a bill that will clarify and affirm the voting rights of individuals who are locked-up for non-serious felonies serving time in county jails because of California’s prison realignment (AB 109). The bill, AB 2466 by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), also applies to eligible AB 109ers under county supervision.


Thanks to the governor’s signature on AB 2298, people will be notified of their impending inclusion on California’s gang database, CalGang, and will have the opportunity to challenge the designation.

People who admit to law enforcement officers that they are gang members or who have gang-related tattoos are added to the database, but associating with known gang members and wearing clothing that might be gang-related also sends people into the CalGang database. Advocates say the vague criteria often have the effect of penalizing people of color for living in the wrong neighborhood.

A recent audit from State Auditor Elain M. Howle found serious errors in the database, which the audit shows lacks necessary state oversight and does not adequately protect the rights of the more than 150,000 people listed in the database.


The Restorative Justice Act, also by Assm. Weber, aims to increase rehabilitation and education programs and make them available for all inmates, not just non-violent offenders.

The bill changes language in a section of the penal code, removing references to punishment as the purpose of incarceration. Now, according to the changes, public safety—which is carried out through rehabilitation, restorative justice practices, and accountability—is the purpose of incarceration.


Brown signed another bill introduced by Assm. Weber, AB 2765, , which will extend the deadline for Proposition 47-eligible Californians to get their low-level felony convictions reclassified as misdemeanors. The will give Prop. 47ers seeking to reduce their felony convictions—upon a showing of good cause—an extra five years to apply beyond the current November 2017 deadline.


The newly signed SB 1174 by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) will trigger regular reports on physicians and their prescribing patterns of psychotropic medications, making it easier for the Medical Board of California to confidentially identify, conduct investigations of, and hold accountable doctors who over-prescribe psychotropic drugs to foster children. (For backstory, read Karen de Sá’s five-part investigative series for the San Jose Mercury News, “Drugging Our Kids,” which inspired SB 1174 and a number of other reform bills and policy changes.)

Governor Brown vetoed another bill that would have increased the requirements for juvenile court authorization of psychotropic meds for child welfare system or probation-involved kids. SB 253 by Senator William W. Monning (D-Carmel) would have required, among other safeguards, second medical opinions for prescriptions to foster kids under five, or in cases of multiple prescriptions. Brown called the bill “premature” in a veto message, and said he wants to wait to see the impact of new juvenile court medication authorization rules from a bill signed last year.


Governor Brown vetoed SB 1289, a bill introduced by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), which would have banned cities and counties from contracting with (scandal-plagued) for-profit prison companies to run immigrant detention centers in California. All-told, four municipalities, including cash-strapped city of Adelanto, are currently contracting with private detention centers.

“I have been troubled by recent reports detailing unsatisfactory conditions and limited access to counsel in private immigration detention facilities,” Brown wrote in a veto message. “The Department of Homeland Security, however, is now considering whether private contracting should continue for immigrant detention, and if so under what conditions…These actions indicate that a more permanent solution to this issue may be at hand.”


Under current law, officers must record interrogations of minors suspected of committing murder. SB 1389, a bill from Sen. Steven Glazer (D-Orinda), will expand the rule to include adults accused of murder.

The recording of police interrogations is an important safeguard against false confessions, which land innocent people behind bars, sometimes for decades.


SB 1189, signed by Brown on Wednesday, aims to reduce the political pressure leveraged against forensic pathologists, and would require all autopsies to be carried out by a licensed physician and surgeon. Introduced by Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), the bill will also force law enforcement agencies to hand over all information about a death to those conducting an autopsy prior to the close of an investigation. This KQED story by Julie Small gives some alarming context as to why this bill is such an important reform.


SB 955, a bill from Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), will give state hospitals the power to grant compassionate releases for terminally ill or incapacitated patients who are charged with a crime but found unfit to stand trial.

Posted in children and adolescents, Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), Foster Care, Gangs, Restorative Justice, Sentencing, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

LA Jail Visitor Beating: Jury Acquits Sixth Deputy on Two Charges, Deadlocks on Third Count – UPDATED

September 30th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

On Wednesday, a jury acquitted Byron Dredd, an LA County sheriff’s deputy indicted for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to cover up of a brutal beating of a handcuffed visitor to Men’s Central Jail, Gabriel Carrillo, by falsifying official reports, thus causing Carrillo to be criminally charged as the aggressor. The charges could have resulted in a fourteen year prison sentence for Carrillo. (Backstory: here.)

Dredd was acquitted on two counts—one of writing a false report, and one of conspiracy to violate Carrillo’s civil rights. Jurors deadlocked on a third count of lying to the FBI.

In December 2013, five LA County Sheriff’s department members were indicted for the Carrillo beating and cover-up. Three of the men involved were convicted, and two struck plea deals (these two deputies later testified against Dredd). Dredd is the sixth LASD member to be tried. Dredd testified in his own defense, saying that his written report was manipulated by his boss.

U.S. District Judge George King set a Monday deadline for prosecutors to decide whether they will retry Dredd on the third count.

UPDATE: On Monday, government prosecutors announced that they would indeed retry Dredd on the third count that caused the jury to deadlock. If convicted of the charge of lying to FBI agents, Dredd could face as much as five years in federal prison. The new trial is set to begin on October 25.

Dredd is on paid leave from the department and reportedly employed at FedEx, and according to one of Dredd’s family members, likely does not wish to return to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

LA Times’ Joel Rubin has more on the story. Here’s a clip:

The verdict marks a rare loss for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, which has won a string of abuse and obstruction cases against deputies and higher-ranking sheriff’s officials following an FBI investigation into county jails.


Carrillo and his girlfriend were handcuffed and taken into custody after deputies said they found them carrying cellphones, which is against state law. After Carrillo reportedly mouthed off repeatedly to the deputies in a secluded room, he was punched, kicked and pepper-sprayed in the face.

After the beating, which left Carrillo bloody and bruised, the deputies and their supervisor claimed in reports that when one of Carrillo’s hands was uncuffed for fingerprinting, he attacked deputies and tried to escape.

Based on those reports, Carrillo was brought up on criminal charges. After Carrillo’s attorney brought to light photographs showing injuries to both of Carrillo’s wrists, corroborating his assertion that he was handcuffed during the beating, prosecutors from the county district attorney’s office dropped the charges.

Posted in LA County Jail, LASD | 5 Comments »

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