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Criminal Justice

LA DA Gascón Issues Statement Explaining Why He's Now Considering Trying Some Juveniles As Adults

George Gascón speaks to attendees at the local Democratic Party's drive-in watch party near the L.A. Zoo on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Gascón wears a white shirt with black jacket. He also has a black mask covering his face.
George Gascón speaks to attendees at the local Democratic Party's drive-in watch party near the L.A. Zoo on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.
(Chava Sanchez
/
LAist)
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In a statement released Sunday night, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón offered a lengthy explanation of policy changes on charging juveniles as adults. Last week, Gascón said his office would evaluate juvenile cases on a “case-by-case” basis and consider prosecuting some youth in adult court when “severe violence” was involved.

The move by the DA is a course change from his initial policy, which barred prosecutors from charging juveniles as adults.

“While I remain committed to the core values of our policies, I have seen a small number of cases that presented real challenges,” Gascón said in the statement. Gascón goes on to point to the Hannah Tubbs case, in which a woman who sexually assaulted a 10-year-old when she was under 18 was sentenced to two years in a youth facility. Gascón’s office received sharp criticism for its handling of the case.

“After her sentencing in our case, I became aware of extremely troubling statements she made about her case, the resolution of it and the young girl that she harmed,” Gascón said. “If we knew about her disregard for the harm she caused we would have handled this case differently,” the DA added.

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If a prosecutor does want to charge a juvenile as an adult, Gascón said a request must be submitted in writing. An internal committee will then evaluate the request before it can proceed. “This process ensures that only in the rarest of cases, where our system has failed, will we diverge from our principles,” Gascón said.

The policy change is a shift from the DA’s initial stance. When he took office in 2020, Gascón said juveniles would not be tried in adult court.

The policy update comes as Gascón is facing a second effort to recall him. It was the second significant policy shift last week, with the DA issuing his statement over the long holiday weekend. On Friday evening, he issued a special directive to deputy district attorneys reversing course on his ban against seeking prison sentences of life without the possibility of parole for some defendants.

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