Veteran Alameda County Prosecutors Depart as New DA Pushes Progressive Overhaul

Delonzo Logwood appeared beside his lawyer in Alameda County Superior Court docket final week for a sentencing listening to on a plea deal the brand new district legal professional had provided him in his triple homicide case. 

However the prosecutor who’d labored on Logwood’s case for nearly eight years was nowhere to be discovered. 

That’s as a result of she had stop days earlier than. 

“That’s fairly uncommon for a prosecutor to resign in the course of the case,” Logwood’s legal professional, Linda Fullerton, mentioned after the decide shot down the plea deal, which might have lowered the homicide expenses to manslaughter and put Logwood behind bars for 15 years, down from the life sentence he initially confronted.

That lacking prosecutor was Stacie Pettigrew, who’s considered one of 5 veteran prosecutors who’ve resigned. As well as, six have been placed on depart and one was fired since District Lawyer Pamela Value took workplace in January, in keeping with the union representing prosecutors. 

Value campaigned on a 10-point plan that promised police and prosecutorial accountability, reducing the variety of youth offenders, creating efficient reentry packages and decreasing destructive outcomes primarily based on race.  

The DA’s workplace has remained silent on the personnel issues. Value’s defenders say complaints over staffing adjustments could also be honest, however come from attorneys who’re so steeped within the practices of a damaged established order that they’ll’t think about a special method to legal justice. 

Value’s opponents contend the lack of skilled employees will make Alameda County much less secure and hurt crime victims. 

“The residents of Alameda County ought to care that devoted public servants which can be accountable for public security are leaving,” mentioned Matt Finnegan, who heads the union representing county prosecutors. 

Along with the resignations, terminations and imposed depart, Finnegan mentioned most of the 140 employees attorneys have been transferred from circumstances and items they labored in for years, which has precipitated disruption within the workplace. In that very same time, at the very least 13 new attorneys have been employed.

Pettigrew, who had been with the DA’s workplace for greater than twenty years, wasn’t the one prosecutor to stop final week. Jill Nerone, who has labored for the DA’s workplace for greater than three a long time, additionally determined to depart, saying in a letter to Value that she was “resigning as a result of I now not really feel in a position to adequately and ethically shield the rights of victims beneath your administration.”

On March 20, the union, which Finnegan mentioned was fashioned out of concern Value can be elected, filed unfair labor practices expenses with the state towards the DA over the imposition of pressured depart. 

Value’s first months in workplace have been the main target of nationwide consideration, with some folks questioning whether or not one other progressive DA like Chesa Boudin from the liberal Bay Space will succeed on an analogous platform of legal justice reform as worries about public security and crime improve. Boudin, who was elected in San Francisco in 2019, was recalled by voters in 2022.

Value has mentioned she anticipated blowback from employees who’re unaccustomed to working with an outsider with very totally different experiences than is normally the case for DAs. 

“My view is that some folks will determine that they’re ready to go in that route they usually’ll determine methods to make that occur, how they’ll commit themselves to the brand new imaginative and prescient. Everybody will perceive what the usual is. If somebody chooses to not observe that route or is just not keen to undertake the brand new requirements, then these individuals will have to be seeking to go some other place,” she advised KQED. 

Value, who’s the primary Black lady elected to function DA in Alameda County, ran and received on a mantle of reform after incumbent Nancy O’Malley declined to hunt reelection. Value, who has a regulation diploma from UC Berkeley, started her profession as a legal protection legal professional in San Francisco however quickly transitioned to non-public follow, focusing primarily on civil rights and employment regulation.  

As soon as within the DA’s workplace, she moved rapidly to sideline quite a lot of prosecutors, placing six on depart, Finnegan mentioned. She’s since employed quite a lot of former prosecutors who labored beneath Boudin in San Francisco.

Value has moved to shake up the workplace in different methods except for the staffing adjustments and a few controversial plea offers like Logwood’s. She has mandated leniency on sentencing and created a unit to analyze police violence—two examples that parallel actions taken by Boudin. 

Her method to managing the workplace, in keeping with Christine Soto Debarry, head of the state’s progressive Prosecutors’ Alliance, is an try to resolve the county’s points, not merely fall again on a failed paradigm of punishment that doesn’t make anybody safer. 

For seasoned prosecutors, that change might be onerous to know, she mentioned. 

“We’re clear that the method we now have taken up till the previous 5 years has not labored,” Debarry mentioned. “Should not the leaders like DA worth be in determined pursuit of options to hurt reasonably than sticking with the failing established order?”

Logwood’s case, in the meantime, is ready to return to courtroom April 5, when his trial date might be set. Which prosecutor might be assigned to the case stays to be seen.

Jonah Owen Lamb might be reached at [email protected]