Wednesday, August 16, 2017

IN THE NEWS: Unwarranted jabs at those who pursue justice

Click here to view the following opinion piece by District Attorney Mike Ramos that was published Aug. 16, 2017 in The Sun


A recent Sun column headlined “Focusing on restitution, not incarceration, serves justice,” by Adam Summers (Aug. 10), takes two unwarranted jabs at the office of the district attorney in its attempt to address the rights of victims and their families.

While the columnist doesn’t specifically name a particular district attorney, I still feel it necessary to speak on behalf of this office and our county’s prosecutors who work tirelessly to secure justice for victims.

One of the statements in the column refers to the fact that, “Sentencing someone to prison may pad a district attorney’s ‘tough on crime’ bona fides, but it does little to compensate the victims.”

As a career prosecutor and 15-year district attorney who has sat beside multiple families of murder victims and tried over 125 cases, I have never once tried to “pad” my resume or the statistics coming out of this office with convictions, or anything for that matter. In fact, the very first thing I tell every new prosecutor who joins our office is, “Your first job, in every case, is to pursue truth and justice. This office does not count convictions, and we do not keep a scoreboard.”


The comment that we need a system that focuses on “the needs and wishes of the victims, not adding another notch on a DA’s belt before the next election” is also insulting not only to me, but to every hardworking prosecutor in our county. It suggests that prosecutors are more concerned with inflating their numbers than pursuing justice — as if we sit in some dark lair, plotting and scheming ways to stick it to some suspect who doesn’t necessarily deserve to be charged.


It’s a cliché, and to be quite honest, it sits right alongside the irresponsible stereotypes we read or hear about on a day-to-day basis. The inner workings of our justice system is far from some must-see TV drama, as well as the picture painted in this column. Are the cases mentioned in the column tragic? Yes, of course, but if the columnist is suggesting that just because an incident is “accidental” — and for the record, one of the examples appears to be far from accidental — the suspect should be given a free pass and merely sentenced to a lifetime of “torturous guilt,” then I wholeheartedly disagree. Each case should be held according to its own facts and circumstances and held up against the law, and then and only then, should a determination be made as to whether or not they are charged.


In every case that comes to our office, we are guided by the law and our best judgment to ensure that the guilty are held accountable. We represent and act on behalf of the people of San Bernardino County. Each case has its own set of facts and circumstances, and those are always taken into consideration, whether a case is deemed “accidental” or one of “extreme violence.” If charged, a judge and jury make the final decision as to whether a defendant should be held accountable.


That is the justice system our forefathers put into place, and in carrying out this mission, we make sure that the rights of our victims and the accused are never forgotten, never overlooked, and always addressed. It’s the law. This is not about notched belts and numbers. There is no dark lair or special playbook that tells us to disregard the law and the rights of the accused. If the evidence deems that a crime has been committed, then our office will take every step to hold the guilty accountable.



Michael A. Ramos is San Bernardino County’s district attorney.

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