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