LOS ANGELES (CN) – Former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced Monday he will challenge Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey for her office.
Gascón, 65, resigned from office this month ahead a vote in November for his replacement in San Francisco.
In Los Angeles, the race for top prosecutor has been set up as an indictment of Lacey’s tenure, including criticism by civil justice groups who say her office has been too slow to adopt reforms.
In June, the American Civil Liberties Union reported Lacey’s office has only secured death penalty convictions against people of color. Lacey’s office has secured 23 death penalty convictions since she took office. All but one involved people of color, including 13 Latino defendants, 8 black defendants and one Asian defendant, according to the ACLU report.
Lacey became the first African-American and first woman to serve as LA County DA when she took office in December 2012.
Miriam Krinsky, executive director with the nonprofit Fair and Justice Prosecution, calls the DA’s race in Los Angeles an example of a unique moment in the country, where more people are paying attention to who they elect to be their prosecutors.
“Communities are smarter of their elected prosecutors and they’re demanding a different set of choices.” Krinsky told Courthouse News before Gascón announced his run for office in LA. “I think it’s an exciting conversation that’s happening that wasn’t happening the last time Jackie Lacey ran for office.”
The next district attorney in Los Angeles will set the temperature for a large community, says Krinsky a former federal prosecutor from the id-Atlantic region. She says Los Angeles is often viewed as a trendsetter for the state.
“A lot of eyes will be on this race and it will continue to be incredibly impactful in the larger criminal justice framework,” Krinsky says.
Gascón announced his run for the LA office across the street from the LA Men’s Central Jail. As the top prosecutor in San Francisco he led reform efforts to decrease the jail population, while Los Angeles’ jail system is considered one of the largest in the world with a daily population near 17,000.
Born in Havana, Cuba, Gascón grew up in LA County and worked as an LAPD officer before going to college and later law school. He returned to the LAPD where he was eventually named assistant chief of police before moving to Mesa, Arizona, to be that city’s police chief.
Then-San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Gascón to the DA slot in 2011 to replace Kamala Harris, who won the election to be attorney general of California.