You’re a Little League team. Playing against the New York Yankees.
Without a bat.
That’s how one deputy district attorney described the plight of prosecutors in the era of District Attorney George Gascón.
The latest weight that we’ve found out has been stacked on the scales of justice in favor of criminals: Prosecutors are no longer allowed, per Gascón’s dictates, to compel witnesses to testify in criminal trials.
The tool he’s taken out of their toolbox is called a “body attachment” subpoena. It’s the kind of subpoena that informs a witness they will be taken into custody and brought to the courthouse if they refuse to attend voluntarily.
In his infamous directives released publicly as soon as he took office in December, Gascón announced there would be no more body attachment subpoenas for crime victims.
That kind of flew under the radar, because crime victims have gone through enough, right?
But privately, Gascón informed his subordinates in a Microsoft Teams meeting that the “no body attachments” rule applies to witnesses, too, according to multiple deputy district attorneys who spoke to The Signal this week on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisals from Gascón and his henchmen in the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office.
Their account was reinforced by a judge — also speaking on condition of anonymity — who vouched that the order is now routinely resulting in case dismissals because prosecutors can’t get their witnesses to voluntarily come to court.
This is important because, as one deputy DA pointed out, witnesses in many criminal cases — particularly those involving gang crime — are hostile.
Suppose, for example, you’re prosecuting a murder in which the suspect is a notorious gang member. You know. The kind of guy with face tattoos including “teardrops” for every person he’s killed.
Witnesses in that case are likely to be reticent to come to court. Understandably so: Fear is a powerful motivator.
And now imagine that the witness has the OPTION to either come to court, or not.
What do you imagine the witness will do? “I’m busy that day, sorry.”
Without a “body attachment” subpoena, that witness isn’t coming within miles of the courthouse, out of fear of reprisals from the other guys with face tattoos who aren’t on trial at the moment.
Every day, violent criminals walk. Because the witnesses won’t show up.
It leaves the prosecutors powerless.
And this is as Gascón wants it. He is the most dangerous public official I’ve ever seen elected in L.A. County. And that’s saying something.
Gascón is so hell-bent on “reform” that he’s willing to let murderers go free just to change the demographics of the prison population. And the prosecutors who work under him, who take seriously their obligation to uphold the law, are rightly frustrated.
Even in an otherwise slam-dunk case, prosecutors — and the public — are going to lose, every time, if the witnesses are ghosting the court.
After all. No matter how many waist-high fastballs you face, right over the plate, in your sweet spot, you can’t hit them without a bat.
Tim Whyte is editor of The Signal.