Public Defender Announces Run For San Diego County District Attorney
The race for San Diego county district attorney is opening up. Just a longtime DA goes into effect. Summer staff and has been named as interim DA. Now another hat has been thrown into the ring and from a unlikely source. Geneviéve Jones-Wright a Democrat has ever been a prosecutor and has declared her intention to run. She joins me now. Welcome to the program. Thank you very much. You've been a public defender for more than a decade. What you want to be the top prosecutor? I want to restore public integrity to the DAs office and I want to first and foremost make sure that the laws are appropriately and fairly across our county. You said you want to bring a smart not just a tough approach to crime. What is a smart approach to crime which It recognizes that there should be early prevention and that the DAs office should collaborate with their partners as I call them. We have to be early and intervening in that starts with our youth. We have to have different strategies and working with our youth and treat our offenders differently. We need to give them resources both inside of her presence in our jails and connect them with resources upon their reentry into our communities. A problem that you pointed to with the DAs office is what you call a culture of winning at any cost. Can you point to any cases you worked on as a public defender where you felt that? I've worked in this county for 11 years and most of my time has been working across the aisle with deputy district attorneys. I've had cases where where the victim's desires have been ignored because it didn't match with the desires of the deputy who was in charge with prosecuting that case. We have to be cognizant that a part of the world of bringing justice to victims is to be a true victim advocate. We need more things like restorative justice. I've also had cases where exonerating evidence was not given. Certainly, if there's information that could exculpate independent they have obligation under our Constitution and under the principles of being ethical and turning those things over. Both are some things that I've seen that has concerned me. Did you win those motions when you confronted the office about that? Yes, this was actually in a homicide case. You had an encounter with San Diego police last year where your car was stopped and you were handcuffed in the police say they made a mistake and they felt you were driving a stolen car. As an African-American woman did this increase your desire to run for office and bring change to San Diego law enforcement? No, I am a candidate because I believe I am the best candidate. I believe that I will bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to the office. Are policy ideas that I would implement to make the office more just as minded. I happen to be a black woman, but I am not running the black candidate to go I believe that I would be the best district attorney for every person in every community across the county. You brought up the idea of prosecutors relationship with the victim of crime. Lawyers who work as prosecutors they have experienced with the trauma experience five victims of crime and that is something they bring with them in their approach to the legal system. Do you have experience with that aspect of law considering that you spent your career defending people instead of representing the victim's? I believe that what our system black today is trauma informed prosecution. I certainly believe that there's more that can be done at the District Attorney's Office to be more compassionate to victims. I talked about how the will of the victim in certain cases -- I'm not talking about family members of the offender, I'm talking about strangers who never knew the defendant in a court case saying this is what I would like to see happen. I don't believe prison will help him. Let's get them treatment. I've seen that voice go unheard and not adhere to because of some sort of political agenda or personal philosophy. I would be a great person to give victim care to go what they don't see in my role as a public defender is ideal with the families of people who have been incarcerated for serving time. I am an expert in comforting, giving that victim care the same type of compassion I give to the families in my own clients it would translate over to the victims. Been a public defender doesn't insulate me from crime. I am comforting victims all the time whether they are in my community. It is something that I do on a regular basis but it would be no different. I would bring more compassionate because of the work that I do. When it comes to officer involved shootings police face no criminal charges because the bar for that prosecution is high. Would you change the DAs approach to prosecuting officer involved shootings question mark The law is a law and if something is deemed to be justified, then it is deemed to be justified. If it is not justified under the law, then the DAs office has to be prepared to prosecute any person who breaks the law. If that person happens to be a police officer, that is the job of a district attorney. To justice does not respect occupation and it recognizes that no one is above the law. The soon to be acting district attorney summer Steffens has a significant head start in terms of the campaign. She has endorsements of the mayor, the sheriff and even city attorney who is a Democrat. What you see as your path forward on this road in your candidacy? The path forward is victory. I have a great deal of support. The community is behind me and I'm taking my case the people. This is not something that I want handed to me. I'm ready to earn it and I'm taking my case the people and I have earned their trust. People who know me and people begin to know me know what I stand for. I have values, I have great work ethic, I have vision and that's what they need. We need someone who will stand firm in their morals. We need someone who has a vision and a leader and that is me. I've been speaking with Geneviéve Jones-Wright who was running first and Eagle County district attorney. It's been a pleasure. Thank you so much. Thank you.
Promising a "smart," not just "tough," approach to crime, Deputy Public Defender Geneviéve Jones-Wright Wednesday announced her candidacy for San Diego County district attorney.
The San Diego native, a graduate of Patrick Henry High School, faces the difficult task of pursuing the job as the county's top prosecutor while coming from the defense side.
She will take on Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan in the June 2018 primary election.
Stephan on Friday will assume the district attorney's job on an interim basis. She was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to finish the term of the retiring Bonnie Dumanis.
RELATED: County Supervisors Approve Appointing Interim DA
"Today, I answer the call of many across our county who want to see change in how we treat our homeless, our addicted and our mentally ill," Jones- Wright said at a news conference. "People who see the need for a criminal justice system that is informed by scientific research into the human condition, people who understand that mass incarceration is as expensive as it is inhumane."
A public defender in San Diego since 2006, she said people want to see more fair results in the courtroom and an end to the school-to-prison pipeline.
"For far too long, we San Diegans have been at the whim of prosecutors who care more about headlines and political points than seeking justice — this ends now, San Diego," Jones-Wright said.
She said that right now, criminal justice is a numbers game in the district attorney's office.
"Victims don't get justice if the wrong person is serving time," said Jones-Wright, who was introduced by former Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, D-San Diego.
On the hard road ahead, she said coming from the defense side equips her to be the best district attorney.
"As a public defender, I work for justice, fairness, accountability," Jones-Wright said.
"I work for justice every single day, I have to be ethical in my dealings, I'm an officer of the court," she said. "I took a sworn oath to uphold the constitutions of California and the United States of America. These are the same principles that will guide me as district attorney. There is no difference."
The graduate of the University of San Francisco and Howard University School of Law serves on the city of San Diego's Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention, where she chairs the ad-hoc gang documentation committee, reviews cases for the California Innocence Project at the California Western School of Law and is a board member for the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association.
She also sits on board of The David's Harp Foundation, a local nonprofit that uses music in its work with homeless and at-risk youth. She is also an adviser and mock trial team coach for the criminal justice program at Lincoln High School.