I’m flattered that columnist Andrea Seastrand has taken an interest in my candidacy for SLO County District Attorney. I must be doing something right to warrant such a lenghty profile — inaccurate and misrepresentative of my record though it is. It appears the status quo of this county is becoming worried about its record of incompetence, complacency and cover-up. This dialogue is welcome, and long overdue. We need to discuss serious issues that folks like incumbent District Dan Dow would just rather not discuss.
Mrs. Seastrand transparently attempts to distract voters from the sorry set of facts that led me to challenge Mr. Dow this June. Twelve people have died while in the custody of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office in the past five years. Yes, people die everywhere, but 12 in five years is almost three times the national average in local jails. This is disgraceful, and our DA is either unable or unwilling to seek the truth. He’s simply not doing his job, thereby putting public safety at risk. Most troubling is Mr. Dow’s refusal to investigate the jailhouse death of Andrew Holland, who died a horrific death after being strapped to a restraint chair for 46 hours.
None of this, though, has piqued the interest of our district attorney. My first day in office, I will order a criminal investigation into this case.
Also, Mrs. Seastrand misrepresented my experience and omitted my qualifications. As a Stanislaus County felony trial prosecutor, I tried 81 felony jury trials. In six, the crime of murder was alleged. Each of the six resulted in conviction — five of murder, one of manslaughter.
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Trial experience is important, because the DA must competently evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a case. This essential ability can’t be gained by traveling to seminars or reading books. Only through substantial trial experience can it be developed.
When Mr. Dow became DA, he had tried fewer than 10 felony jury trials in his entire career. Today, three years later, he still has tried fewer than 10. This glaring lack of experience explains his office’s extraordinary number of “not guilty” verdicts, in serious cases, over the last three years.
In 1994 I was appointed to the bench by Gov. Pete Wilson and became a California Superior Court Judge in 1998, where I served until my 2006 judicial retirement. I then resumed private practice in SLO until January 2017, when I chose voluntary inactive bar status. My law license never expired, as has been suggested.
I am running for district attorney out of a sense of duty to to the community in pursuit of common-sense reform of our criminal and mental health systems.
I look forward to the campaign.
This Viewpoint has been updated to correct information about the circumstances of in-custody deaths and the number of felony cases that District Attorney Dan Dow has tried.
Editor’s note: The Tribune ordinarily does not publish campaign Viewpoints from candidates. We make an exception to allow district attorney candidate Judge Mike Cummins to respond to Tribune columnist Andrea Seastrand.