On Monday, October 19, 2009 the Justice Reform Coalition
organized a demonstration and march starting at the Sacramento County DA's office and ending at the Federal Building where the demonstrators asked the Federal Department of Justice to investigate the Sacramento and Yolo County DA's offices and their practices. In a heavy rain approximately 60 people representing various groups from Sacramento and Yolo County expressing their outrage and frustration with the practices of these two DA offices. The demonstration was covered by Channel 3, 13, Fox40, MSNBC and the Davis Vanguard. Statements given to the press are listed below.
The following is a press statement by the Justice Reform Coalition:
Dear Attorney General Holder:
The “justice train” has been derailed here in California . Over the past three years, the advocates and organizations that are a part of the Justice Reform Coalition, and those we work with, have been dealing with the fallout caused by the abusive, wasteful, racist, and reactionary practices and policies of the DAs of Sacramento (Jan Scully), and Yolo (Jeff Reisig) Counties. We see instance after instance of the negative effects of these overtly discriminatory policies on people, families, and the community in general. Together they form a pattern of abuse and disregard for the law and the rights of our citizens, especially those of color and on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder. Our communities are no safer than they were before these tyrants took office.
The DAs in both counties run their departments as their personal fiefdoms, subject to their prejudices, special interests and attitudes. Exaggerated charges and overly long sentencing are used to coerce plea taking to get high conviction rates to keep government funded grants. Vindictive prosecutions, and intimidations, especially against people of color, are part of the usual tactics of these departments run by these two DAs. Racism and racial profiling abound. These policies affect the courts and allow for judicial and law enforcement misconduct to happen and go unchecked.
Attorneys know that under Jan Scully and Jeff Reisig, their clients are guilty until proven innocent. They tell their clients so. We hear it from people all the time. This is a violation of the basic tenant of our country's legal system and the Constitution. These DAs are the law attorneys say to their clients, and their clients tell us in return. Attorneys that practice in the domains of these DAs fear retaliation if they fight for their clients. They characteristically fail to give their clients effectual counsel and over 90% plea out their cases. Black and Latino defendants are subjected to this more than white defendants.
Because of this, most don't get their true due process as guaranteed in the Constitution. The wholesale violation of people's rights is then tolerated and many innocent people go to jail and others are given sentences that don't fit the crime. This is especially true for people of color. Children of color are charged as adults more than white children, especially in Sacramento . They are routinely given “gang enhancements”, when they are not gang members. Their futures are ruined in the name of the law and for grant money. Prosecutions for pay! These DAs take pride in this, saying it shows they are “tuff” on crime.
Enough is enough! It's time to stop the abuse! These two DAs and their departments have no local over-site or accountability. However, they both receive Federal money and therefore fall under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. Therefore the JRC is demanding that the DOJ do its duty and initiate an investigation into DAs Jan Scully and Jeff Reisig, and their departments. There are several recent cases which illustrate the things we are referring to which you can use as a point to start your investigation. This needs to be done now! Your administration is supposed to be about positive change. Let this be the start of a change for our state and country, and help bring credibility and accountability back to our justice system.
Rev. Ashiya Odeye
Justice Reform Coalition
CC: Civil Rights Division
501 I Street, Suite 12 - 600
Sacramento , CA
The following is a press statement by the Advocates for Ajay:
Dear U.S. Attorney General Holder:
Friends, family and supporters of Ajay Dev are here today in unison with others who have been victimized by the corruption of the Yolo County Justice System. Ajay Dev was sentenced to 378 years in prison in a case where there was NO physical evidence. Ajay is the victim of an overzealous prosecution and unfair trial.
It is common practice for the Yolo County District Attorney's office to stack up charges against minority defendants. Charging Ajay with 92 counts was a tactic used by DDA Steve Mount to prejudice the jurors against Ajay right from the beginning so he could win a conviction. THIS IS NOT FAIR - THIS IS NOT JUSTICE. Currently, another minority in Yolo County is facing 150 charges. With each conviction of a sexual nature, the District Attorney receives grant money for the prosecution of these crimes. Each count is a conviction. Not all counties receive these types of grants, only a handful. The Yolo County District Attorney's office has a record of prosecuting nearly ALL complaints, no matter how weak or strong the case—99.4 %.
Over 200 supporters of Ajay know he is innocent and has been another victim of the corruption in Yolo County. We MUST raise our voices loud and clear so that SOMEONE will take notice of the many injustices the Yolo County Justice System is waging against its citizens—citizens like you and me, like all of us here today. As people who are united in the belief and pursuit of truth and justice, we ask that our federal government take notice. We ask that they hear the unity of our voices and root out the corruption that has taken the freedom of too many innocent people. We demand that they form a formal investigation into the Yolo County Judicial System.
Advocates For Ajay