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San Diego District Attorney’s Race Pits Public Defender Against County’s Interim Prosecutor

May 2, 2018 8:57 a.m.

A veteran prosecutor serving as interim District Attorney is running against a deputy public defender seeking change.

Related Story: San Diego District Attorney's Race Pits Public Defender Against County's Interim Prosecutor


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

>>> There is another countywide race that will be decided next month. District attorney. The DA sets priorities when it comes to pursuing charges against the accused criminals in San Diego County. Former DA Bonnie demanded step down last year. Now a veteran prosecutor serving as interim DA is running against a criminal defense attorney seeking change. KPBS reporter Karen Minto says the race is one of the few can elections this year that will be decided in June instead of November.
>> This is an opportunity for the candidates introduce themselves.
>> Reporter: In a small room about the library the candidates running for district attorney's shared the stage. Summer Stefan and deputy public defender Genevieve Jones right.
>> I am writing because a DAs office has been stumped upon as a criminal justice for firm.
>> Reporter: The two whose careers put them at opposite sides of the courtroom. Stefan says her path to the prosecutor's office was influenced by her grandmother who survived the Armenian genocide .
>> she would say it is really important to take advantage of the education, the ability for you to have a voice to help somebody else.
>> Reporter: She says she excelled academically and reached high school two years earlier than most making her a target for bullies. Stefan says her past pusher to fight for victims as a prosecutor for more than 28 years. She led efforts to support those traumatized by traffickers .
>> the victim centered human trafficking task force that holds offenders and organize crime accountable but also deals with victims with dignity and respect.
>> Reporter: She emphasized to work for child victims. She says she used new practices to support young witnesses in the 2010 school shooting. She successfully prosecuted the gunmen.
>> It was tougher than it looked because he brought an insanity defense and to court-appointed doctors said he was insane. But having a little bit OCD about little kids being shot, I read every single thing he ever wrote on his computer. I reviewed his whole history. We were able to show that he was not insane.
>> Reporter: Last summer the county supervises appointed her as interim DA despite criticism that it will give here an advantage in the election. All Stefan's name and the election presents a challenge that her lesser-known opponent Genevieve Jones right says that her ideas will bring a fresh perspective and the DAs office .
>> I have been working in the trenches every single day seeing how the policies and decisions that come out of the DAs office affect people, families, communities, whole neighborhoods, and this entire County.
>> Reporter: Jones right grip in the Lincoln Park neighborhood where she says she witnessed encounters between the community and the police .
>> all the time never positive.
>> Reporter: She says people deserve a second chance, but too few of her clients get programs that would divert them from incarceration .
>> when your circumstances where you know that someone came to you and they have juvenile delinquency records, that means they have been court involved before. What happened along the line that they did not get the help to prevent them from coming into adult court.
>> Reporter: Her opponent Stefan had a hand in establishing one program for veterans. Jones right says that Stefan will continue a reform reverse -- Stefan's former boss in state laws that were reduced some crimes. San Diego voters approved them .
>> these reform measures met signaled the direction the San Diego inns -- San Diegan wanted to go in. Where we were saying some punishments were too severe for the crimes.
>> Reporter: In city Heights Stefan said the office took a proactive approach since California passed recreational marijuana .
>> to find out if there is anyone that is incarcerated based on old laws that would not be under the current law.
>> Reporter: Jones right countered that it was a collaborative effort .
>> public defenders are the ones doing the applications because it DA is not just summarily taking things and reducing them down.
>> Reporter: It is unclear how well each candidate will draw voters to the polls. The city Heights forum was filled with Stefan's friends, family, other supporters from outside the community. Unaffiliated midcity residents that she was not aware that the race would be decided in June. Another felt she lacked information overall. Third said she left the forum more conflicted than who would get her vote than when she walked in.