In the Summer of 1983, deputies of the San Bernadino Sheriff’s Department responded to a call at the home of Douglas and Peggy Ryan. They were found, along with their 10-year old daughter and a neighbor’s 11-year old son, horribly butchered and their bodies mutilated in one of the worst crimes scenes ever witnessed in the Chino Hills history. Area drifter and felon, Kevin Cooper was arrested for the murders, tried and sentenced to death.
Kamala Harris had just finished her Sophomore year at Howard University on the other side of the country.
Of course, we’ve come to know the rest of her story since then. After graduating, she returned to California, started working as an Assistant District Attorney in Alameda County and eventually becoming the District Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco. It was here that she gained statewide and even national attention for some bold political statements that she used to propel her for a run for California’s Attorney General, which lead her to the U.S. Senate and now, of course, she is a candidate for President of the United States of America.
However, it is the calamitous case of Kevin Cooper that has been indelibly linked to that of Senator Harris. Earlier this week, during the second round of Democratic Debates, second of the 2020 cycle, fellow candidate and Congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard waylaid the Senator with an accusation that, as Attorney General, she blocked evidence that would have lead to Cooper’s exoneration. Which sound pretty bad… if it were actually completely accurate. It wasn’t. What is true is that after twenty years of appeals, Cooper was granted a fairly literal last minute stay of execution in 2004. And in 2010, he filed a clemency petition, not with the Attorney General, but with then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was the Governor who actually then left the application to the discretion of his replacement, Jerry Brown(who coincidentally, was Schwarzenegger’s Attorney General). The truth of the matter is that Brown’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris had very little to do with Cooper’s clemency application. She certainly was not in position to block evidence. Her only involvement in the application was to encourage the governor to allow for DNA testing that could clear him. Again, she encouraged the Governor, not the Attorney General, Xavier Becerra. You see, it is not his job. Nor was it hers. In California, the governor has the sole authority to grant clemency. But based on a single word in a unquoted and unsupported opinion piece, Tulsi Gabbard blamed Kamala Harris for something she really had very little control over, if any at all.
In short, Tulsi Gabbard was grossly misinformed.
But she didn’t stop there. She also accused Harris of putting 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations, again something she had no control over, and then laughing about it. What’s actually laughable is the suggestion that a state’s Attorney General is remotely involved in the prosecution of street level drug offenses. But when you put it in context that, as D.A., she routinely declined 3rd strike offenses that were in the vain of such drug offenses, to save multiple persons from serving mandated life sentences under California’s 3-Strike Laws, it’s even more asinine. Gabbard went on to accuse Harris of keeping in place bail system that impacts poor people in the worst way, which is literally the complete opposite of what Harris has been working on during her time in the Senate, reforming our national Cash Bail System to stop victimizing and criminalizing poor people.
In short, Tulsi Gabbard is also lying to you.
The problem is, Tulsi Gabbard could hardly be blamed for blatant lies that she tells. She, along with surrogates from other candidates, bloggers, and other assorted internet trolls have cobbled together various tales of Kamala Harris’ prosecutorial days insisting on telling the story that despite her claims of being a “progressive prosecutor” that she is not just pro police and law enforcement, but also zealously dedicated to throwing black and brown people in jail throughout her career. And these stories have persisted since she first announced her candidacy in January.
Most notably among these detractors has been law professor and criminal defendant advocate, Lara Bazelon, who wrote the authoritative opinion piece critical of Harris’ time as a District Attorney and Attorney General, saying that Harris “fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions”, with Cooper’s case being chief among those she cited. Other than that being a breathtaking overstatement of epic magnitudes, Bazelon gives other cases of convictions that were all tried well before Harris even held office and had little influence in. She made Harris to be the main culprit in many of these cases where her or her office was if anything a side note. As example, her two main criticisms extend from Harris’ Truancy Program that she piloted and a case of a lab technician that was found tampering with evidence. Those who do not know would say Kamala Harris cheated the system to purposely keep innocent men and women incarcerated. The reality is that the lab tech, which wasn’t even her lab tech, was dismissed and Harris personally tossed the nearly 1,000 cases that she had worked on, which included those being investigated, those on trial and those that were incarcerated. In other words, the exact opposite of what she’s accused of. Likewise, those who do not know would say Kamala Harris wanted to jail parents of kids who skipped school. The reality of it was that it was an initiative based on an actual analysis of incarcerated persons, that found the one thing they all had in common was a path that started by skipping and dropping out of school. Bazelon did not mention that not only did it work, but the initiative went out their way to work with parents and guardians to give them all possible resources to help their kids stay in school and away from influences that could lead them to the system. That and it was as criminally scary as Obamacare’s Individual Mandate, which isn’t at all what you’re told it is. You were lied to then. You’re being lied to now.
In all, Gabbard, Bazelon and other agenda driven critics have cherry-picked individual instances, often with incomplete or inaccurate information, which is used to castigate Harris’ entire career as a prosecutor, Attorney General and U.S. Senator. Not to mention, it has given cause for the uninformed to blame her for doing her job and being a prosecutor. Nevermind it being a her job to actually punish those who do victimize society and harm others, something that acutally commands the justice of a lawful society we all want(which she was very good at). But the narrative being presented is that it isn’t possible for her to be both black and to be in law enforcement. If you are to believe that then you are forced to also believe that in order to be black you also have to be anti-law enforcement, as if to suggest that the circumstance of being black means we are pro-crime. The idea of it is just so insanely stupid that it can’t be taken seriously. If this is your main criticism of Kamala Harris then perhaps your actual criticism should be with your own self.
If you’re not a fan, you’re not a fan. if you prefer other candidates, that’s your choice. But if you truly want to take a handful of out of context instances, combine it with poor fact checking and conflating circumstances and use it to judge her entire career, just realize that you are not holding someone accountable for their record.
You are purposely lying.