DJ Becker/The Madera Tribune
Recently-elected Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno speaks to a crowd of supporters
at a Madera Republican Women Federated dinner at the Madera Municipal Golf Course on Feb. 28 to update members on progress in the DA’s office.
Sally Moreno, the first woman elected as Madera County District Attorney, spoke to the Madera Republican Women Federated Feb. 28 to thank them for their support and update them on the current situation in the office.
Moreno, an Army veteran and long-time criminal prosecutor, said she was pleased to report no prosecutors had left, that she found the state of the DA’s office was not as bad as previously reported and that the office was moving forward well now, with a fresh set of eyes.
“I’m very proud to have a staff of lawyers whom I can rely upon ... who know the answers, or know where to find them...” Moreno said.
The office has also made some small, simple changes to improve efficiency such as updating and expanding copies of essential software licensing for document management and legal reference books to provide teams with better resource tools. A priority of the office is to also work to transition to a more digital file management system with a lesser amount of paper files in the future, and an integrated file-sharing system with local partner law enforcement agencies.
“It’s going to be really great to move forward in those areas.” Moreno said.
The DA’s office is also now utilizing Facebook to provide fast and accurate information to the public directly from their staff.
Moreno went on to describe how recent ballot measures in California such as early release of felons, reductions in sentencing, or cite and release of lower level drug offenses have made the duties of District Attorney’s office much more difficult, comparing them to “a legal kick in the gut” and she encouraged residents to become informed on how these changes could affect them and their safety.
Proposition 1437 reversed the DA’s ability to charge all participants of a crime with murder in a dangerous felony incident, even if they were not the one directly pulling the trigger, she said, and depending on legal challenges this change may now affect murder conviction cases retroactively.
Passed in 2011 Proposition AB 109, also known as “realignment,” transferred lower level offenders from state prisons back to local jails and/or to be released into their communities on parole, and other ballot propositions are attempting to eliminate the cash bail system, instead releasing some offenders on their own recognizance, to appear in court at a later date. Moreno encouraged residents to vote down the proposal in November, of eliminating cash bail in California.
“Based on that some judges are reversing some (murder conviction) cases back to 1997. I wish I didn’t have to tell you those things, but this is what is going on ... And these coastal areas (who back and vote for these propositions) don’t seem to understand they are making things more dangerous. But we are going to keep fighting (these changes).” Moreno said.
“Here in Madera we (currently) have 19 open homicide cases. But that’s a little bit of a misleading number, as there has been a lack of ongoing prosecutions. I like to get a homicide done in two years. That’s a bit aggressive but if you work hard, keep your foot on the gas, be ready for every hearing, you can do that. We have a number of homicides that are more than five years old,” Moreno said, to the shock of the audience.
Some of that delay has been due to past distractions in the DA’s office, Moreno said, “but we are returning our focus to that and are ready now. These prosecutors are capable,” she said.
Moreno also noted that the office had not had a personnel increase since 2011, and she was reviewing that and had already asked for additional staff.
Moreno said she had also recently proposed four prosecutors to form a team to focus on violent crimes, one for each superior court.
“These are areas where we can still get significant sentences, to (help) keep our community safe,” she said.
Special Victims Unit team and child sexual assault teams were also a priority.