LA SUPES EXPECTED TO APPOINT UNIQUELY QUALIFIED JUDGE MICHAEL NASH TO BE LA’S CHILD WELFARE CZAR
On Wednesday, a letter from LA County CEO Sachi Hamai recommending Judge Michael Nash as LA County’s new child welfare czar was attached to the Board of Supervisors’ agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting.
The Supes are expected to approve Nash on November 3, to be head of the county’s Office of Child Protection, a position recommended 18 months ago by a blue ribbon commission convened to jumpstart much-needed reforms in the county’s child welfare system.
(We at WLA find this news very cheering, and can think of no one more suited to the position of LA County’s child welfare czar than Judge Nash.)
Judge Nash publicly voiced his interest in the child welfare czar position last October. The board reportedly was also looking at interim czar Fesia Davenport, who had formerly served as chief deputy director of the Department of Children and Family Services.
Nash was clearly enthused in an interview with Daniel Heimpel of The Chronicle of Social Change: “I am excited because it is such a unique opportunity to work with L.A.’s finest. But, I am quite nervous. With this, failure is not an option. So I am really nervous about that. I think being nervous about that is a good thing.”
Nash’s unparalleled experience includes serving nearly 30 years as the presiding judge of LA County’s juvenile court, but did not remain retired for long, returning as a sitting judge in a Compton delinquency court.
Prior to Nash heading the entirety of the 43-courtroom juvenile system, he served as a dependency court judge. (Read about Nash’s efforts to bring transparency and accountability to the children’s court system, here, and DCFS, here.)
Here’s a clip from the Chronicle of Social Change story:
The creation of an Office of Child Protection was one of the most prominent recommendations to emerge from the blue ribbon commission’s nine-month investigation of the county’s child-serving systems. While the commission’s draft recommendations had initially envisioned the office’s director to have the power to amend budgets and staffing levels of various county agencies to better respond to child abuse, the approved plan for the office narrows its scope to that of a watchdog.
This is a post for which Nash, who served as presiding judge of the county’s large and complex juvenile court system, is uniquely suited. Known for testy exchanges with the current head of the county’s Department of Children and Family Services and terse quotes in local and national media, the judge knows how to drive media attention, while also having an extensive rolodex of allies throughout the county’s fractious child welfare community.
“The OCP Director should possess a mixture of political finesse, deep understanding of the system and a deeper determination to improve it, courage to stand up to leaders who fear change, and a willingness to listen and collaborate with all of the stake holders and customers,” said Leslie Gilbert-Lurie, a former blue ribbon commissioner and co-chair of the transition team established after the commission was sunsetted. “Judge Nash is one of the few individuals in Los Angeles who possesses all of these qualities. He is intelligent, deeply committed, and highly respected, and I believe he understands the vision behind creating the Office of Child Protection.”
LA TIMES’ PROP. 47 SERIES CONTINUES: MISDEMEANOR ARRESTS
In the latest essay from the LA Times’ editorial series on CA’s Prop. 47, editorial board member Rob Greene takes a look at why law enforcement officers say they are no longer arresting people for misdemeanor offenses, post-Prop. 47.
To answer this question, Greene delves into the procedural difference between misdemeanor and felony arrests, and how and when officers can make misdemeanor arrests. Here’s a clip:
…critics of Proposition 47 often speak as if those differences made the change even more drastic, in effect decriminalizing those six offenses, turning them into infractions like parking violations, with officers issuing citations or tickets instead of making arrests, and offenders not bothering to show up for their court dates in the belief that jail time was no longer possible.
In the post-Proposition 47 debate, the conversation is generally whittled down to this: Officers and prosecutors say they no longer can arrest people for these crimes. And because arrests are down, they say, crime in California is increasing and drug offenders are not getting treatment.
Defenders of Proposition 47 respond that crime rates go up and down for many reasons, and that rising crime in cities outside California shows that there’s not necessarily a causal link between crime and the change in law here. And besides, they add, all the same procedures and remedies that were available before are still available, except that jail sentences for those six crimes are held to a one-year maximum.
There’s something missing from this discussion. If people in law enforcement believe that crime is rising because they aren’t making arrests, then why aren’t they making arrests? What is it about the law, or about police, prosecutorial, court and jail practices, that cause fewer arrests and prosecutions this year for crimes that are misdemeanors than for last year, when the same crimes were felonies?
There appear to be seven key steps in the criminal justice process where Proposition 47 changed the law, or local practices, or both, and that may be in part responsible for fewer arrests. Each step brings with it an assumption or assertion that must be examined if we’re to determine where there may be a breakdown in public safety — and what can be done about it.
We’ll start today with the beginning of the process — the arrest.
Read the rest.
ABC7 DIVES INTO SNITCH SCANDALS TROUBLING THE ORANGE COUNTY DA’S OFFICE
ABC7’s Marc Brown and producer Lisa Bartley have taken a very close look at the string of jailhouse informant-related misconduct scandals plaguing the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. The alleged misconduct has resulted in the removal of the entire DA’s office from the high-profile case of mass shooter Scott Dekraai and the unraveling of a number of other cases.
The murders and their aftermath have wrought unimaginable pain on family members of the victims. Four years later, the legal case against Dekraai, who pleaded guilty last year, is in disarray. The entire Orange County District Attorney’s Office has been kicked off the death penalty phase of Dekraai’s case. Orange County sheriff’s deputies have been accused of lying under oath. There are calls from one of the most respected legal minds in the nation and the New York Times for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.
How did Dekraai’s crimes lead to this? It all comes down to whether or not prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies broke the law in the pursuit of convictions. Critics say the most powerful law enforcement entities in Orange County cheated the system, pursuing a win-at-all costs legal strategy for decades, at the expense of not just Dekraai’s constitutional rights, but potentially scores of other defendants.
Scott Dekraai had already confessed to the murders to police when he found himself in an Orange County Jail cell next door to prolific jailhouse snitch Fernando Perez.
Perez, a former leader in the Mexican Mafia and third-striker facing possible life in prison, turned informant in 2010 and quickly racked up confession after confession from a series of suspects, all of whom wound up in a jail cell right next to Perez.
Perez may have sensed an opportunity when Dekraai started talking about his crimes. He knew that if Dekraai gave up information police and prosecutors wanted, Perez might be able to leverage that into a more lenient sentence for himself.
“They didn’t need to put an informant in that cell next to him,” said Paul Wilson who lost his wife of 26 years in Dekraai’s rampage and is outraged by delays in the case and what he calls “absolute crimes” by elected officials.
“They’re in cover-up mode,” Wilson tells Eyewitness News.
In their second story, Brown and Bartley tell the story of Oscar Moriel, a former member of the Mexican Mafia awaiting trial for a 2005 murder, who has become a seasoned jailhouse snitch, gathering a pile of confessions from fellow inmates in hopes of bettering his own situation, maybe even of joining the military with special recommendations from his handlers. Here’s how it opens:
Oscar Moriel is an unlikely ally of law enforcement. The former member of the Mexican Mafia is awaiting trial in Orange County for a 2005 attempted murder and has admitted on the witness stand that’s he’s killed at least six people.
Testifying under a grant of immunity last year, Moriel recounted how he and fellow gang members “went out hunting” for their victims.
In February 2009, Moriel was looking at possible life in prison when he summoned Santa Ana Police Department Detectives Chuck Flynn and David Rondou to the Orange County jail.
Moriel was ready to turn informant.
“I’m putting my life on the line, my life in jeopardy, my family’s life in jeopardy,” Moriel told the detectives in the once-secret jailhouse recordings obtained by Eyewitness News.
Moriel observes that the detectives appear to be “stumped” in their efforts to solve two cold-case murders. He expresses concern that law enforcement “manpower” and “taxpayer money” have so far failed to put the killers behind bars.
“I think I can do it pretty solid,” Moriel says. “I think I could smash the whole case and put the guy away or the people away.”
Moriel offers to help detectives crack the cases, but his “memory” remains a little fuzzy.
“Yeah, we’re gonna have to meet halfway here,” Moriel says…
Moriel wants the detectives to reach out to higher-ups in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Maybe they can “pull some strings” on Moriel’s attempted murder case.
“So, you’re looking for some consideration in exchange for information on two unsolved murders?” asks Detective Flynn.
“Pretty much,” says Moriel.
Moriel suggests that having some “options” on the table in his own case might help him think more clearly.
“I’m looking at a third strike, I’m looking at life in prison,” Moriel says. “So, the more options I have to work with and to choose from, the better position I’ll be in to think more clearly.”
Detectives tell Moriel they don’t have the authority to make a deal with him, but they can take his information to the people who do.
“You’ll get consideration for the level you perform,” Detective Flynn tells Moriel.
“Great, OK,” says Moriel.
Five months later, Detective Flynn meets with Moriel again. This time, he’s accompanied by Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies Bill Grover and Ben Garcia.
By then, Moriel is hopeful, not just that he’ll be freed, but maybe… he could join the military?
“Do you think it’s possible after all this is done, if you guys can expunge my record and I can go into the military?” Moriel asks.
Detective Flynn admits that expunging Moriel’s lengthy criminal record would be tough, but joining the military might be possible with a recommendation from law enforcement.
Nearly nine years after his arrest, Moriel still hasn’t even had a trial on his own charges. But he’s been busy, gathering jailhouse confessions and information in a string of cases.
On the face of it, using jailhouse informants is legal. But those informants must not question charged suspects on behalf of police. And any evidence that an informant gathers, must be turned over to defense attorneys.
The once-secret jailhouse recordings should have been turned over in every case Moriel had a hand in, but they were not.
The recordings only came to light after a years-long investigation by Scott Sanders, the public defender for confessed mass killer Scott Dekraai.