Q: I have two questions. First, what is the legal basis for new Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon to establish “zero bail” even though Proposition 25 was defeated. Also, have the counties stopped setting bail now?
A: Proposition 25 on the November 2020 ballot sought to replace cash bail with risk assessments for detained suspects awaiting trial. It was defeated, but the newly elected Los Angeles County D.A. supports the concept of no cash bail. Keep in mind, however, that Gascon is not the legislature; he cannot change the law. Also, he is not a Superior Court judge, and it is the judge who sets bail. What Gascon has done to date is promote a policy that the district attorneys will not recommend bail in certain instances. Further, my understanding is that they may be silent on what the judge decides, and silent when it comes to bail setting. Even so, the reality remains that each county, through the judges, sets its own bail schedule; as of now, those remain in place.
Q: Gascon opposes the death penalty. Is it still the law in California?
-G.N., Seal Beach
A: The death penalty remains on the books here in California, but there has been no prisoner put to death since 2006. Challenges are making their way through the courts. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who also is a longtime opponent of capital punishment, cites racial disparities in its application, high cost and wrongful convictions among the reasons he placed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2019. Statistics suggest the majority of Californians support the death penalty, so how this will ultimately get resolved remains to be seen.