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Lacey, Jackson highlight differences in D.A. race debate

September 20, 2012 |  6:00 am

Jackie LaceyIn one of their last debates before the November election, the two candidates for Los Angeles County district attorney strove Wednesday night to differentiate their positions.

Jackie Lacey, second in command to current Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, is facing off against Alan Jackson, assistant head deputy in the office's major crimes division. Unlike the last debate, in which the two traded barbs -- with Jackson painting Lacey as an out-of-touch bureaucrat and Lacey calling her opponent "naive" -- the tone this time around remained civil.

Jackson portrayed himself as an innovator in touch with new technologies and their applications in the courtroom.

"I understand what it takes to prosecute a modern case," he said, referencing developments in DNA Alan Jacksonevidence and forensic evidence, as well as high-tech crimes such as identity theft. "... Modern leadership is what's going to push this office into the future."

Lacey continued to emphasize her experience in both the courtroom and as an executive administrator in the office of 1,000 prosecutors.

"Experience is the most important qualification for that job," she said. "Experience and a vast amount of experience. You have to touch every part of that office to understand it."

The two agreed that realignment -- the push to incarcerate some convicted criminals in county jails rather than in state prisons -- would test the means of the justice system in Los Angeles County in the coming years, but disagreed on where the funding should come from to cover the added costs to the county.

During the debate, held in Chinatown and hosted by the Italian American Lawyers Assn., Lacey said she supports Proposition 30, a measure on the November ballot that would temporarily increase the income tax on high earners as well as the sales tax as a means to fund the expenses brought by realignment.

"It's not pretty -- it's ugly -- but local agencies, local police agencies need that money," she said.

Jackson opposes the measure, saying California's taxes are already too high.

"I don't think the funding for [realignment], which was basically the baby left on our doorstep, the county's doorstep, should come from a tax increase," he said. Instead, Jackson said the state should look at a significant restructuring to save costs, including potentially merging "redundant" agencies such as the Franchise Tax Board and the Board of Equalization.

The two also talked about how they would handle further deep cuts to the court system. Lacey said she would lean on prosecutors to come to court prepared and would communicate with defense attorneys between hearings so court time would not be taken up unnecessarily.

Jackson said he would push to develop consistency in plea bargaining standards -- which he called "the mother's milk of judicial efficiency" -- across the county.

The two will face off again Thursday night at a debate sponsored by the Los Angeles County prosecutors union, the Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys/AFSCME Local 268. The union has yet to endorse a candidate in the race.

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-- Abby Sewell

Photos (top): Jackie Lacey. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

(bottom) Alan Jackson. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

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