How George Gascón might change the LA District Attorney’s Office — the largest in the US

George Gascón speaks at a news conference at City Hall in San Francisco, California March 11, 2013. On the morning of November 6, 2020, Jackie Lacey conceded the race for Los Angeles’ next district attorney to George Gascón. Photo by REUTERS/Robert Galbraith.

LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey conceded to former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón in the race for the next Los Angeles DA: “I thank my family for the sacrifices they made in order for me to hold this job. To my mom, who constantly asked me, ‘Are you okay?’ And who reminded me during this contentious fight, no matter what happens, I made history.”

Lacey was running for a third term heading the nation’s largest local prosecutor’s office.

Gascón’s victory is a big win for the movement to elect progressive prosecutors, especially in the wake of this summer’s protests over racial bias and policing.

KCRW talks about Gascón’s potential impact on LA — with USC law professor Jody Armour and LA Times reporter James Queally.

Prior to the March primary, Queally says Lacey hadn’t faced much opposition from Gascón in the race for DA. Then voters were energized for Gascón over the summer, following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the ensuing protests against police brutality.

“You could see a lot of endorsements flipping away from her. She lost Mayor [Eric] Garcetti, she lost [Congressman] Adam Schiff, a few others. The entire momentum of the race turned to him and the policies he kind of embodies,” Queally says.

Gascón’s presumptive win indicates a growing shift to progessive district attorneys nationwide, according to Armour. He cites the elections of Larry Krasner in Philadelphia and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco as other examples of the change. But he points out that Gascón’s win is the largest.

“The reverberations of this election … are going to be felt more than any other race in the nation up to this point,” Armour says.

Queally says that Gascón as DA could reopen cases Lacey refused to prosecute, such as the 2015 shooting of Brendon Glenn in Venice and the 2016 shooting of 19-year-old Hector Morejon.

He might also have a tough time working with the LA County Sheriff's Department, as well members of the DA’s office.

“[Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s] department largely [is not a big fan] of George, neither are a good chunk of Deputy DAs in the office. So he's going to figure out how to work with these people. It's going to be certainly something interesting to watch come January,” Queally says.

Gascón will also face pressure from community leaders in Los Angeles. That includes Black Lives Matter LA, which regularly protested outside Lacey’s office for years.

“His victory was the result of strong grassroots organizing by Black Lives Matter LA,” Armour says. “I really see it as a triumph of the possibility of protests in the street translating to real action at the ballot box.”

— Written by Danielle Chiriguayo and Amy Ta, produced by Michell Eloy and Sarah Sweeney

Credits

Guests:
James Queally - covers crime and policing for the LA Times - @JamesQueallyLAT, Jody Armour - USC law professor - @NiggaTheory

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Angie Perrin, Nihar Patel