The vice presidential hopeful’s record in California undermines her claim to progressive credentials, says Marjorie Cohn.
This article was originally published on Consortium News on July 9, 2019, when Sen. Kamala Harris was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. She was chosen by nominee Joe Biden as his running mate on Tuesday.
Sen. Kamala Harris is rising in the polls after dramatically confronting former Vice President Joe Biden during the Democratic primary debate about his opposition to federally mandated busing for desegregation. The following week, however, Harris backed away from saying that busing should always be federally mandated, calling it just one “tool that is in the toolbox” for school districts to use. When asked to clarify whether she would support federal mandates for busing, she said: “I believe that any tool that is in the toolbox should be considered by a school district.” But Biden’s poll numbers are falling as a result of Harris’s theatrical attack.
Harris, who served as San Francisco district attorney from 2004 to 2011 and California attorney general from 2011 to 2017, describes herself as a “progressive prosecutor.” Harris’s prosecutorial record, however, is far from progressive. Through her apologia for egregious prosecutorial misconduct, her refusal to allow DNA testing for a probably innocent death row inmate, her opposition to legislation requiring the attorney general’s office to independently investigate police shootings and more, she has made a significant contribution to the sordid history of injustice she decries.
Jail Informant Scandal
For years, perhaps decades, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, in cooperation with the Orange County District Attorney, or OCDA, planted teams of informants in the jail to illegally elicit confessions.
Deputy sheriffs placed informants near defendants who were represented by counsel to obtain statements from them. Prosecutors were aware of this program and explicitly or implicitly promised benefits to informants. This violated the defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
In People v. Dekraai, an informant in this program illegally obtained statements from the defendant. After the prosecutor agreed not to use the statements, Dekraai pled guilty to murder and was preparing his defense for a trial on whether he would get the death penalty. He asked the judge to find that the OCDA had a conflict of interest because of its involvement in the jail informant program.
Over a six-month period, the judge held two hearings and heard from 39 witnesses.
The judge found that many witnesses, including prosecutors and law enforcement officers, were “credibility challenged” about the nature of the informant program and their role in it. Some couldn’t remember, the judge determined, but “others undoubtedly lied.”
Thus, the judge concluded that the OCDA had a conflict of interest and recused the entire OCDA office, removing it from any further involvement in Dekraai’s case.
Kamala Harris, who at that time was serving as state attorney general, would then take over the prosecution of the death penalty phase of Dekraai’s trial. But Harris appealed the judge’s ruling and opposed the recusal of the OCDA.
In 2016, the Court of Appeal rejected Harris’s argument and upheld the trial judge’s recusal of the OCDA. The appellate court wrote in its opinion:
“On the last page of the Attorney General’s reply brief it states, “The trial court’s order recusing the OCDA from prosecuting Dekraai’s penalty phase trial was a remedy in search of a conflict.” Nonsense. The court recused the OCDA only after lengthy evidentiary hearings where it heard a steady stream of evidence regarding improper conduct by the prosecution team. To suggest the trial judge prejudged the case is reckless and grossly unfair. These proceedings were a search for the truth. The order is affirmed.”
Attorney Jerome Wallingford represented a man who, like Dekraai, was a victim of the illegal Orange County jail informant program. “Harris should’ve done her job and investigated the informant program based on the findings of the Court of Appeal in the Dekraai case,” Wallingford told Truthout. “But instead, she tried to whitewash the scandal by protecting the DA and blaming the sheriff.”
The job of the attorney general is not to protect the DA. As chief law enforcement officer of the state, the attorney general’s duty is “to see that the laws of the State are uniformly and adequately enforced,” as mandated by Article V of the California Constitution. Harris violated her legal duty in this case.
Minimized ‘Outrageous Misconduct’
Harris minimized “outrageous government misconduct” in People v. Velasco-Palacios. The trial court found the prosecutor “deliberately altered an interrogation transcript to include a confession that could be used to justify charges carrying a life sentence, and he distributed it to defense counsel during a period of time when [the prosecutor] knew defense counsel was trying to persuade defendant to settle the case.” After the prosecutor snuck the fabricated confession into the record, it caused the defense counsel to urge the defendant to plead guilty, which undermined the trust the client had in his lawyer.
The trial judge determined that the prosecutor’s action was “egregious, outrageous, and shocked the conscience,” and dismissed the case. Harris’s office appealed. The Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal, noting that “dismissal is an appropriate sanction for government misconduct that is egregious enough to prejudice a defendant’s constitutional rights.” Significantly, the appellate court stated that “egregious violations of a defendant’s constitutional rights are sufficient to establish outrageous government misconduct.”
But the Court of Appeal rejected Harris’s argument that if the conduct wasn’t physically brutal, it would not satisfy the “shock the conscience” standard required for dismissal.
Once again, Harris was covering up prosecutorial misconduct and ignoring the Supreme Court’s admonition in Berger v. U.S. that the duty of a prosecutor “is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done.”
Opposed Investigations of Police Shootings
These cases are not isolated examples of Harris’s less-than-progressive record as a prosecutor.
“Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reforms as a district attorney and then the state’s attorney general, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent,” University of San Francisco School of Law Professor Lara Bazelon wrote in a New York Times article titled, “Kamala Harris Was Not a ‘Progressive Prosecutor.’” Bazelon added, “Most troubling, Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.”
After a federal judge ruled in 2014 that California’s death penalty system had become so dysfunctional it “violate[d] the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment,” Harris appealed the decision. As a result, California’s death penalty was upheld and remains in place today.
Harris refused DNA testing that could exonerate Kevin Cooper, a likely innocent man on death row, and she opposed statewide body-worn police cameras. Harris favored criminalizing truancy, raising cash bail fees and keeping prisoners locked up for cheap labor. She also supported reporting arrested undocumented juveniles to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, covering for corrupt police lab technicians and blocking gender confirmation surgery for a transgender prisoner. A U.S. District Court judge concluded that withholding the surgery constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Many of Harris’s prosecutorial actions disproportionately hurt people of color.
Harris opposed legislation requiring the attorney general’s office to independently investigate police shootings resulting in death. In 2016, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus called on Harris to do more to strengthen accountability for police misconduct. Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy (D-Sacramento), a member of the Black Caucus, told the Los Angeles Times, “The African American and civil rights community have been disappointed that [Harris] hasn’t come out stronger on this.
Helped ‘Foreclosure King’
Although many of Harris’s prosecutorial actions harmed people of color, a notable one helped the white “foreclosure king” — Steve Mnuchin, now Trump’s Treasury secretary.
Mnuchin was CEO of OneWest Bank from 2009-2015. A 2013 memo obtained by The Intercept alleges that “OneWest rushed delinquent homeowners out of their homes by violating notice and waiting period statutes, illegally backdated key documents, and effectively gamed foreclosure auctions.”
After a yearlong investigation, the California attorney general’s Consumer Law Section “uncovered evidence suggestive of widespread misconduct.” In 2013, they recommended that Harris prosecute a civil enforcement lawsuit against the bank.
“Without any explanation,” Harris’s office declined to initiate litigation in the case.
Mnuchin donated $2,000 to Harris’s Senate campaign in February 2016. It was his only donation to a Democratic candidate.
In January 2017, the Campaign for Accountability claimed that Mnuchin and OneWest Bank used “potentially illegal tactics to foreclose on as many as 80,000 California homes,” and called for a federal investigation.
Harris wrote in her memoir, “The Truths We Hold,” “America has a deep and dark history of people using the power of the prosecutor as an instrument of injustice.” She added, “I know this history well — of innocent men framed, of charges brought against people without sufficient evidence, of prosecutors hiding information that would exonerate defendants, of the disproportionate application of the law.”
Indeed, the public record indicates that as district attorney and later as attorney general of California, Harris has contributed to the injustice she claims to abhor.
Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and a member of the advisory board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is “Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.”
This article is from Truthout and reprinted with permission.
When mindless, bloodthirsty lock-em-up policies were fashionable, Harris – like most other people with power in the USA and here in the UK – was enthusiastically in favour of them for the popularity they gave her. Now that the tide is slowly turning in favour of evidence-based policies that regard defendants and people in prison as human beings with rights, her failures are exposed but she is frantically attempting to whitewash her past and present. No, Kamala. If you were more honest about what you did and the lives you destroyed, I and many others would have at least some respect for you.
Ever hear of Bryon Stevenson, he represents individuals on death row especially those who have found themselves there as victims of a corrupt judicial system. He wrote True Justice: The Fight for Equality and has had a special on the TV. Google him he is real unlike our fake president!
If you want a case study of how Lady Justice has been used systematically to jail the poor, especially blacks and how it came about this is your chance.
He makes the case that especially in the south local prosecutors and judges at the behest of local sentiment from those in power, mostly white, privileged and or connected, many of who where KKK , decided that lynching blacks in public was bringing too much heat on the south and those local communities involved.
The word sent out “if you come to the Boss and we will make certain your problem is dealt with”.
The fix was in. If you had a problem with a black you went to the sheriff or prosecutor or head of the local power structure, an alderman or grand wizard and voiced your complaint. Now it’s the D.O.J.’s M.O. for making special deals for those “exceptional Americans”. Those with wealth and connections and those doing covert classified “illegal” work for the Intel community go free, while DOJ et al continue to jail blacks and other minorities for excessive terms.
Harris was a prosecutor and that is what they do. And it needs to stop!
Under the current system “Lady Justice ” is nothing more than a perverted whore who works only for money and punishes the Masses for little or nothing. All the while claiming to be doing what society desires which is a lie. It’s done because it’s what the deep state desires.
The Deep State is the Pimp!
It does make you wonder why this article was not published during her Senate primary.
In the U.S. of A you can not survive if you do not work for the “system”! Where inequality gap widens and when comes to shove , the “system” brings Biden-Harris team to dampen the anger, LIFE GOES ON
Her treatment of Mnuchin should endear her to Wall Street; she is just the sort of candidate they could support. A wolf in sheep’s clothing; sort of like hopey changey Obama. Looks good on the outside; strictly corporate on the inside. Only he was Harvard Law a lot closer to the top tier of the establishment.
They should start charging you for your promotional blurbs…
The psychiatrist is out. That will be 5¢ please.
Do you ever say anything that isn’t wildly inappropriate and disrespectful?
Disrespectful to whom, cartoon characters?
Is there a reason you are gracing us with your distinguished presence today or is this one of those random drive-by trollings?
Going by the corporate media coverage Harris is the US version of France’s Macron, the DNC establishment candidate replacement for the previous one they championed, the senile geratric Biden, now that he’s failed
Right you are, Andrew! Who needs Deep Fakes when you can run a candidate such as Kamala who is a real candidate yet a fake person at the same time?
Next thing you know, we’ll have a reality TV actor playing the president on TV!
And you couldn’t think of any insult except one woman calling another by a misogynist name? There are so many words to insult someone; I suggest you trying watching Upstart Crow.
Tnx CN, Marjorie… in fact tnx SoMuch!… actually read this piece on the net journal connectedw/Ed’s revelations… I have2 wonder… after readin coupla comments on top… (but in response2 Demdebate crits)… Is Joe runnin front4 Cam?
I can support Liz W/O reservation… I’ll vote4 Sen Harris cuz she’s gotta be better than “yerfired”… but… I learned Long Ago: Never Vote4 X-Prosecuter… The MO is extort defendants (guilt/innocents nomatter its all about stats) thru egregious overcharging!
Ergo… show me More Please SenH… convince me you’re Not MsObama II!
Over recent months, The New York Times asked 21 Democratic hopefuls a series of questions, including: “Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?”
Kamala Harris delivered a verbatim recitation of pro-Israel Lobby propaganda talking points
Hasbara Harris splained:
“I think that Israel as a country is dedicated to being a democracy and is one of our closest friends in that region and that we should understand the shared values and priorities that we have as a democracy, and conduct foreign policy in a way that is consistent with understanding the alignment between the American people and the people of Israel.”
Unsatisfied, the interviewer followed up: “Does Israel meet your human rights standards to your personal satisfaction?”
Playing for time, Harris asked, “What specifically are you referring to?” before finally answering the question: “Overall, yes.”
Harris sees no problem with Israel’s policy of sending snipers to systematically and deliberately kill unarmed civilians, including children, who protest their internment in the besieged Gaza Strip.
She sees no problem with Israel’s skyrocketing demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank to make way for Jewish-only settlements – a war crime.
She sees no problem with Israel’s military detention and torture of Palestinian children.
Harris sees no problem with dozens of Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel solely for not being Jewish. These include laws and policies that promote the kind of housing discrimination and official segregation that is banned in the US thanks to the civil rights laws she claims to uphold.
She sees no problem with Israel’s recent Nation-State Law explicitly affirming superior rights for Jews over Palestinians.
No less than Donald Trump, Harris is eager to make a significant contribution to Israel’s sordid history of injustice.
Open Secrets actually shows that Wiles, also a Democrat received money in 2016. Harris is a piece of work and that’s putting it nicely.
Perfect Deep State operative, lies and more lies while putting on a phony front–when will people get the message it’s not what I say but what I do? No wonder Barack Obama was so impressed with her, she’s the female embodiment of his duplicity. Thanks for the info, not living in CA I wasn’t aware of that much of Harris’ record.
“But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.”
— Hillary Clinton
WikiLeaks – The Podesta Emails
Biden and Harris exemplify the bankruptcy of the Democratic establishment. By rote now they all claim to be “progressive.” Just like a lot of the junk on grocery store shelves that say “all-natural” and “environmentally friendly.” Even when it is absolutely proved that they are not (progressive) it serves their purpose by casting the shadow of their own mendacity on those with real progressive leanings and proposals. Heads they win, tails we lose, because they know how to manufacture consent.
As several said below – Kamala Harris is the establishment. In every single cell of her body.
And now that Trump has made America great again, he claims, (and gee isn’t it just another day in paradise?) he is going to campaign on the slogan “Keep America Great.” Rhymes with gag. We live in bizzaro land.
I want Kamala Harris to be the Democratic nominee. Trump will call her Chameleon Harris and it will get him easily re-elected. America is NOT ready for another woman nominee who will say anything to get elected
For all practical purposes, she *is* the Democratic nominee. Biden is going to make William Henry Harrison’s term in office seem endless in comparison.
Harris is some kind of weird “identity politics” blend of Obomber and Killary. She is probably a shoo-in for the superdelegated DNC nod on the second ballot. Here comes warmonger from column B, unless the “deplorables” out-number the “latte sippers” in 2020.
Perfect summary – thanks!
The worst part about Biden’s gaff is why he said it? What could he possibly have hoped to communicate to the masses?
Did he mean:
A. He had gone to the extremes of bipartisanship and worked with segregationists on legislation intended to marginalize and discriminate against minorities in order to moderate their influence and to find a more equitable arrangement?
B. He had gone over to schmooze with racists at a whites only political club in order to make deals with them ignoring their segregationist position to get what he wanted (votes) on his political agenda.
Biden left himself wide open to the latter interpretation and Kamala Harris drove a truck full of political dynamite through the hole of opportunity afforded by his statement.
Biden now admits that he made a mistake in using the example of his history of working in a bipartisan way with segregationists which he chose to illustrate his historical bipartisan approach.
Biden’s statement was an obvious misstep but in a larger context it exemplifies not only Biden’s work across the aisle to find common ground but also illuminates the recent history of the Democratic party which is to work with republicans and find bipartisan support for their initiatives before supporting new legislation.
Barack Obama made similar political calculations with his Obamacare initiative. At the time of the introduction of Obamacare as a new healthcare plan Obama was quick to stress that he would only move forward with his plans if they had bipartisan support. The group of so called Blue Dog Democrats which had the ability to block the super majority that the democrats had publicly stated that they would not act on any healthcare initiatives until the American People were fully educated by the media as it covered town hall meetings during the recess. The rest is history as the media presented the democratic town hall meetings as contentious brawls between angry citizens and the democrats trying to pass socialist health care.
In the end it was another democrat who caved to conservative demands and eliminated single payer health care as off the table for discussions. That democrat was Nancy Pelosi, the much reviled and hated enemy of the conservatives who was always portrayed as a tax and spend liberal by the media.
So the democrats cannot it seems act alone and must come to an agreement with their republican counterparts before they would ever dream of unilateral action even if they had the theoretical votes in Congress and a democrat president who was willing to sign bills the administration floated.
On the flip side the republicans whether or not they are in control never seek bipartisanship and often exclude any chance that democrats might get to influence republican agendas. The tax breaks bill was one example where democrats were granted just 30 minutes to read a bill hundreds of pages long and also filled with hand written legislation written in the margins of the papers in a frenzy of glad handed self interested editing to stick in provisions for every special interest group eager to hitch a ride on the deregulation bill.
We have the examples of the months long deliberate foot dragging by democrats delaying health care until it was effectively destroyed by the republicans as the democrats insisted they were waiting for approval from republicans and we have the tax relief bill as an example where republicans did everything in their power to prevent democratic influence on their trillion dollar tax break windfall.
Such polar opposite behaviors between the politics of the left and right in how they seek to enact laws favoring their positions leads to the conclusion that often democratic initiatives are held hostage by the republicans and also that republican initiatives are often railroaded through Congress with the democrats told to sit on the bench while the real adults form policy.
The day that the democrats grow a spine is the day I will believe any of them are not just shills for the conservatives who control Washington. That includes Harris and Biden.
Citizen One – “the worst part about Biden’s gaffe is why he said it”? The *worst* part is surely that it is actually his true attitude toward African Americans – not that he gave away his viewpoint?
He was against busing in Boston. He was gung ho for Clinton’s crime bill which has had devastating effects on the African American communities across the nation – a deliberate social control effect, as Michelle Alexander makes patent in her book. (Not that Harris is any different, especially when it comes to lock ’em up and throw away the key.)
Biden is a racist arsehole – but he is hardly the only one no matter which side of the so-called aisle one looks at.
I think Biden deliberately threw the race to save face and bow out without saying no and incurring the rath of the DNC establishment.
Biden is tired and probably depressed over the death of his son. His heart wasn’t in it.
Also Harris completely quashed any investigation into allegations from victims of sexual molestation from Catholic priests in CA. These victims are still upset with Harris to say the least.
Nor sure where Drew Hunkins is coming from since all of us “anti-progressive-war-lefties are not so sold on KH. Perhaps he needs to listen to a wider group of such. That said, KH speech towards Biden was nothing but a cheap shot (I’m no fan of Biden), which, if you really listened to what she said, it was “I’m establishment.” It was sort of like an echo of Hillary. On further thought, leave the “sorta” out. It was an echo.
Good bye Joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh…. And take KH with you.
Dennis Rice, perhaps Drew Hunkins simply meant that KH fulfills two identity politics requirements for some Democrats. She is a female and a person of color both, which appeals to a certain section of those unenlightened limousine and latte liberal groups. They’re really not “left” nor are they truly “progressive” in the dictionary definition. As an old song goes and I paraphrase: they’re left of center when they pontificate but right of center when it affects them personally!! Hypocrites in other words…
The nugget is:
… what she said … was “I’m establishment.” …
That defines the lady and, essentially, the world can expect a team player who will continue to enforce the status quo on the rest of the world. And for all that she is for upholding the law you can bet that it doesn’t include international law.
Those who wish to see real progressives at the debates should donate $1 to Sen. Mike Gravel to that he will have enough signatures to debate. Here is the link: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/gravel65000
Sam F, right you are. Gravel is a rare good man in this mess.
Get ready to get pummeled since the race card and the woman card will be made irrelevant by the time there is a nominee… This woman lied about the “bused little girl” when in fact that little girl has always been a person of privilege. Plus, her relationship with criminal smollett, the Chicago Obama crime gang and the witch from Arkansas crimes against children foundation should be well documented by the time we “Patriots” make it to the polls. Of course, we know there will be attempts at voter frauds.
Hey now,,, hey now,,, don’t think it’s over. I , being in the Bay Area thought the timing of one of Willie Brown’s Girlfriends , Kamila Harris becoming Assistant DA in SF shortly before acting DA Terrence Hallihan , got forced out of office for getting in a fist fight with a guy that he had shared hatred with for many years was very suspicious. Was it a set -up? Ask Willie Brown. He is very smart . He has a tell all column in the SF Chronicle .,No doubt he would say Hallihan was an brawling, Irish drunk and a loose cannon. How did he get to be DA then? Ask Willie, the dapper dude that the new Bay Bridge is named after. He’s the one that got Kamila the job. Much like, for instance, he got one of his squeezes appointed to be the overseer of a project that was suppose to happen on Treasure Island. I’m not making it up, just don’t look at it too hard because that’s inappropriate. When KH became DA her office would not touch a tough case. It was only about easy wins and eye candy. I’m not making this stuff up , it’s just unfortunate that I have a memory. This was daily fare in the SF Chronicle. That the waters then parted and she became first California Attorney General, a political , not legal position , then Senator, was both good fortune and consistently amazing. She has done little to merit being lifted by us voters to such a lofty perch other than accusing a former teenager for groping at a drunken pool party without evidence like she was doing something courageous and championing womanhood. She is , has been and therefore always will be an opportunist. It works in California , just ask Schwartznegger , that’s what he denied being when he miraculously became Governor without ever having been in Politics. NO SORRY AGAIN I MUST APOLOGIZE BECAUSE I DO NOT MAKE THIS STUFF UP> If I did I could be a writer of Fantasy in Hollowwood probably worth several billion . I will qualify my remarks by saying I do not know her and she may not be all bad . I’m biased againsy having anything shoved down my throat that I an already suspicious of. Why not?
B/c K.H. checks two identity politics boxes it’ll be difficult for those on the anti-war progressive-left to level effective criticisms at her.
She’s dangerous. Just a month or so ago she was traipsing across NYC and the Hamptons looking to drum up Wall Street money at every opportunity. She also wants Israel to dictate its own terms when dealing with the Palestinians, which means all criminality is a go for the Zionist enterprise.
Lastly, K.H. appears to be a bit off kilter by putting the world closer to the brink of nuclear war. She fell right in line during the debate by condemning Trump for actually conversing with Putin and of course promoted the whole nauseating ‘Putin is a dicator’ business.
Yes, Drew Hunkins, while Biden is your typical white privileged male of a certain era who is imbued with racism, at least to the thinking person this is obvious. Harris, on the other hand, is rather more dangerous because she can – and does – wrap her racism, her let’s continue to allow the Israelis to break every humanitarian, war making, ethnic-cleansing law in their 70+ year long efforts to eradicate the Palestinians from the latter’s rightful homeland, her eager-beaver pro-prison, pro-police violence, neoliberal reality in the cloak of Femaleness, having the “right” minority pedigree and age.
Does Israel meet human rights standards to your personal satisfaction?
Perhaps Kamala will pull up a lawn chair and enjoy her view next time Yahoo gets “mowing”.
We’re down to WWF storylines on Twitter and presidential brands of merch now. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Which one you got? The red hats or the yellow T-shirts?