Jonathan Hatami | A Prosecutor’s Perspective

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Every day, I fight for the rights of abused, tortured and murdered children. Protecting child victims and upholding the rights of those who cannot defend themselves, in my mind, is the true definition of justice. It is the most vulnerable among us that we must all fight for.  

The District Attorney of Los Angeles cannot not be a political observer or a tool for special interests. He cannot develop and implement sweeping policy changes that completely fail to consider public safety, the actual facts of each case, or the rights of the victim. He or she must be a prosecutor with integrity; he or she must be someone who knows the law and respects the will of the people and the laws they voted for. The current DA of Los Angeles has never tried a single case. He has never come face-to-face with a child murderer; he has never had to call a child to the stand who was molested and go through those painstaking moments of abuse; he has never had to own the grief of someone whose child, mother, father, brother or sister was murdered.    

Nothing could have made the current DA’s contempt for victims clearer to me than a few days ago when Joshua Rodriguez’s mother said to him: “My son can never speak again because he was murdered. He was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. My son matters!” 

The DA responded by telling her to “keep [her] mouth shut,” and said she is “uneducated” 

I know what it feels like to be victimized. To feel powerless. That sense of hopelessness. For a DA to not understand the pain of a victim’s family or what they’re feeling at a human level, and then callously and pretentiously dismiss them — the hurt on top of the hurt they already feel, from the very person who is supposed to stand up for their son. Like Joshua’s mother, I think every Angeleno is asking themselves, “If the DA won’t fight for my murdered child, who will?”

We should never make back-door plea deals in any case. We should always be transparent. Justice doesn’t hide. Justice must always shine through so everyone can see. Victims matter! 

The national estimate for wrongful convictions is about 2%. California, with some of the best defendant protections in the U.S., is lower. Is it possible that people accept a plea deal due to fear of being convicted by a jury based on the evidence and receiving a longer sentence? Certainly, that does happen. Do “innocent” people go to prison? Yes, though this is incredibly rare, and using the exception to prove the rule is dishonest. Does L.A. County try cases because of a defendant’s race or nationality, or seek to have mass amounts of people imprisoned? Those claims are ridiculous and are not supported by any facts. They are simply loaded rhetoric used to misinform the public and evoke emotion and irrational decision-making.  

The point is, pretending the problem lies in sentencing or enhancements is dishonest and ignores the real problem. The real problem is that crimes are happening. People are being assaulted, tortured, murdered, abused and raped every day. The DA calls certain sentences “racist, morally untenable, irreversible and expensive.” So is murder, child rape and torture. How is it the DA has focused on those who commit such crimes but ignores those who have suffered them?

I am a deputy district attorney. I do my job because I care about people and love my community. I fight for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves. I want my children and your children to live in a better and safer place. I want reform as well. The difference is, I think releasing dangerous criminals is not the place to start with reform, but rather investing in our children early, and changing the life path by offering equal resources for all communities to educate, feed, house and protect our people. Treating the person who took a life, sexually assaulted a vulnerable person, robbed and beat an elderly person, or discriminated against someone who was African American, Latino, Latina, not heterosexual, etc., as the victim, but then call the real victims ignorant or in the DA’s words “uneducated” and snubbing their pain, their loss and their fear, is not fair or just. The DA of L.A. should be compassionate and caring. The DA should show empathy.

Child murders are real. Gang murders are real. Domestic violence murders are real. These crimes are caused by a small group of people in our society and if we do not remove them from the majority of the good people, they will continue to rape, torture and murder our children and other vulnerable members of our society. That is not mass incarceration. That is not fear mongering. That is not salacious. That is reality. That is facts. That is public safety. That is the job of the DA. 

As the prosecutor, I am the voice of the people. And in my cases, where children are murdered, I am their last voice. Now more than ever, L.A. needs your voice as well. 

Jonathan Hatami

Deputy District Attorney  

Santa Clarita

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