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Law Office of Ronald G. Brower Blog


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Orange County DA's Private DNA Database

DNA Testing
DNA is a vital component of criminal justice in the United States. The invisible evidence that people leave behind at the scene of a crime can be a deciding factor in determining a suspect’s guilt or innocence. Genetic identification techniques, as people using services like 23andMe well know, can also tell men and women about their ancestors. Interestingly, as more and more people utilize ancestry services, it has had an unintended impact on some of our nation’s more notable cold cases.

It just so happens that perpetrators don’t have to have their DNA sequenced for investigators to determine who was behind a specific act. One need only look at the recent apprehension of Joseph James DeAngelo, who is better known as the ‘Golden State Killer.’ DeAngelo is accused of committing 12 murders and more than 50 rapes, according to Wired. While DeAngelo never sought to learn about his familial history, one of his relatives did; and, thanks to a technique sometimes referred to genetic triangulation, it’s now possible to learn the identity of a murderer.

The importance of genetic testing is abundantly clear, not just for convicting criminals but for exonerating innocent people who’ve been serving time for crimes they did not commit.


DNA In Orange County

In the wake of the recent election, there are significant changes on the horizon across California, especially in Orange County. One such alteration could mean the end of more than a decade-old DNA collection program at the Orange County District Attorney’s office.

Eleven years ago, OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas started a unique DNA testing program that is independent of the OC Crime Lab, The Orange County Register reports. More than a decade ago, the DA’s office began collecting genetic samples from low-level offenders; since that time, the office has amassed 176,000 unique genetic samples for their database. From its conception, Rackauckas' private pool of double helices has resulted in 725 investigative leads; the database also had a role in finding the Golden State Killer.

Many of our readers are aware that after 20 years in office, Rackauckas is on the way out after losing his re-election bid. Now, the fate of his database is teetering on the edge of being dissolved; the incoming District Attorney – county Supervisor Todd Spitzer – has yet to intimate if he will continue Rackauckas’ program, according to the article. It is worth noting that no other DA has a similar DNA database at their disposal.

“I have some serious concerns about the DNA initiative,” Spitzer said in an interview. He adds, “I plan to bring in experts to advise me. I am not convinced the D.A. needs its own crime lab…” 

The has long been ethics concerns about offering low-level criminals get-out-of-jail-free-cards, or nearly free. Offenders facing jail time for petty offense would pay a $75 processing fee and provide the DA’s office a genetic sample. The idea is that those who commit a misdemeanor today may engage in felonious acts down the road; having DNA on file could be pivotal to discovering a perp's identity. According to the article, some local defense attorneys refer to the DNA program as “spit and acquit.”


Orange County Criminal Defense

We invite you to contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are facing criminal charges in California. Attorney Brower has the experience to provide you or a loved one with excellent legal representation.

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Hate Crimes In America

hate crimes
Last weekend, The New York Times Magazine featured a story about White Nationalism and hate crimes in America. The cover photo listed scores of such crimes since June of 2015; including the most recent race or religion-related mass murders, such as the Tree of Life massacre.

On November 13, The Washington Post published a complimentary story citing FBI data that indicates that for the third year there was an increase in hate crimes. There was a 17 percent rise just last year alone; the report shows that the most significant jump involves anti-Semitic attacks – like the recent synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.

In 2017, we wrote about an effort to address hate crimes in California. California Assembly Bill 39 would have created a California Hate Crimes Registry, but the bill died in committee.


Hate Crimes In California

While hate crimes may appear to be rare and isolated events to most people, including those living in a progressive state like California, the data does not lie. Even in affluent communities like those located in Orange County, there are victims of such types of killings. In January 2018, a Newport Beach man allegedly murdered his former classmate because of the victim's sexual orientation. Samuel Woodward, 21, is believed to have killed Blaze Bernstein for being gay.

Last week, Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger stripped Woodward of his right to bail, The Los Angeles Times reports. Despite the pleas from Woodward’s defense attorney, Judge Menninger said, “I do believe it would be a danger to others in the community, based on preliminary hearing transcripts.”

The defendant has pleaded not guilty. If found guilty, the hate crime enhancement means he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. According to the article, Woodward is scheduled to return to court January 25, 2019.

Orange County Criminal Defense

If you or a loved one need legal assistance in California, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. Bringing decades of experience to the table, Attorney Brower is fully equipped to advocate for you or your family.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

California SB 10 Repeal Effort

money bail
2018 is the year of criminal justice reforms in the Golden State; from reducing prison populations and legislation to keep juveniles out of the adult system to end the practice of money bail. Regarding the latter, Governor Jerry Brown penned his signature to Senate Bill 10 with this ending the hotly contested system that keeps the poorest of Americans in jail awaiting prosecution. On the day Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure into law, August 28, 2018, he stated “today, California reforms its bail system, so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” according to The Washington Post. Naturally, the move was welcome among equal rights activists and national organizations.

It’s worth remembering that cash bail is a big business generating millions and millions of dollars each year. Not surprisingly, the industry is not going to step aside without a coordinated effort to delay the rollout of SB 10 and repeal it when the opportunity arises. A campaign is underway to collect enough signatures to put a measure before voters in 2020.

Repealing SB 10

At the end of October, the bail bond industry had raised $2.5 million to fund the SB 10 repeal effort, the article reports. Triton, a bail company, owned by Endeavour Capital (private equity firm), has made an $800,000 contribution to the effort. The money raised is funding a veritable army of signature collectors. For each signature collected, solicitors in San Diego earn $3.25.

An executive at Triton justified the company’s decision to donate by pointing out that Senate Bill 10 “would wipe out the bail industry in California.” If the legislation stands, then it stands to reason that bail guarantors would lose their entire customer base. A lot is at stake!

The Private Equity Stakeholder Project, a nonprofit group tracking firms like Endeavour Capital, reports that they’ve bought many companies who service low income individuals. Such industries include:
  • Low-income housing
  • Payday loan businesses
  • Nursing homes
  • Detention centers
  • Prison phone services
To be fair, some progressive groups are not a fan of SB 10 either; the American Civil Liberties Union stopped lending their support despite their opposition to money bail. The organization has concerns that the bill is too broad and may result in higher rates of pretrial incarceration.

“As much as we would welcome an end to the predatory lending practices of the for-profit bail industry, [this bill] cannot promise a system with a substantial reduction in pretrial detention,” California’s ACLU affiliates said in a statement. “We oppose the bill because it seeks to replace the current deeply flawed system with an overly broad presumption of preventive detention.”

Southern California Criminal Defense

Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G Brower is you require a strong legal defense. Attorney Brower brings decades of experience to the table and can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

California's Bloated Prisons Budget

prop 57
Lenore Anderson, a former assistant district attorney in San Francisco and executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, is calling on California lawmakers to address the state’s bloated prisons budget in the wake of several criminal justice reforms. In an op-ed for The Sacramento Bee, Anderson highlights how Governor Jerry Brown has supported legislation in recent years. She points out that Brown’s support for bills like Proposition 57 for instance, is in stark contrast to the California Governor of 40 years ago.

Prop 57, you will remember, allows parole consideration for nonviolent felons and made changes in who decides whether a minor will be charged as an adult or not. The legislation also authorizes sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, and education. Brown’s support for the bill is ironic considering that the laws passed during Brown’s first tenure in office – Anderson argues – are some of the direct causes of California’s enormous jail and prison populations.

This year, state lawmakers also passed legislation that did away with money bail and gave greater diversion possibilities for those living with mental illness who get arrested. Criminal justice reform is widely believed to be a step in the right direction, but Anderson notes that state expenditures on imprisonment have not changed.

More Money On Prison Than Education

California is a progressive state; however, we spend $12 billion on state prisons alone, according to the op-ed. Since 1981, there’s been a 500 percent increase in prison spending—more than any other budget item, including higher education. Anderson writes:

“But these expenditures do not align with what works to reduce crime. We know many of the drivers of crime: mental health crises, substance abuse, unaddressed trauma and housing and economic instability, especially when these factors are combined. Most of these factors are exacerbated by lengthy incarceration, not resolved by it.” She adds, “We should be investing in crisis assistance centers, in restorative justice and in programs that combine housing and treatment for chronically homeless people cycling in and out of both jails and emergency rooms.”

Orange County Criminal Defense

For more than three decades, Attorney Ronald G, Brower has provided clients with effective legal defense in Southern California. If you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge, please reach out to our office to arrange a consultation.

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