I’m undecided in the Suffolk DA’s race, so I want to share my thoughts with others who might be in the same position.
The DA’s job is not to be some kind of neutral manager of prosecutors. The DA’s job is to set an agenda. To decide what justice is, and how the full weight of the Commonwealth will pursue justice in his or her district. Which cases to prosecute, what sentences to seek in those cases, whether to throw out cases involving police misconduct, etc.
I’m really disturbed by the number of prosecutors running for District Attorney in Suffolk County and around the commonwealth. Even more disturbing is the assumption by the media that candidates should have prosecutorial experience. That’s like assuming the head of the EPA should come from the ranks of Big Oil executives. Sure, they have relevant experience, which will make them more competent in a few aspects of the job. But the biases that come with that experience FAR overshadow any increase in competence. This isn’t a knock on oil executives, or prosecutors. In our economy as it’s currently designed, we need oil companies, and they need some kind of leadership. In our justice system as currently designed, we need prosecutors. Plenty of good people serve in both jobs. But in both cases, we should be moving toward a system that minimizes the need for those roles as much as possible, and someone who comes from those backgrounds generally is not the person to do it.
Someone who has too much experience inside the DA’s office carries a certain set of biases. Like all biases, they can be overcome. But when you’re deciding who to vote for, don’t just let a candidate tell you they’ve overcome those biases, or pretend they don’t have them. Make them SHOW you that they’ve overcome those biases; that they have a history of working for a better justice system instead of just being a cog in the machine. One candidate in the Suffolk race has already shown that she hasn’t overcome those biases, by accepting the endorsement of the MBTA Police Association. Another is a career prosecutor in Dan Conley’s office, so if he believes that office’s policies are wrong in any way, he sure hasn’t had the courage to show it. That leaves Shannon McAuliffe and Evandro Carvalho as the only two potentially worth voting for. And Carvalho has a history as a prosecutor, so if you’re considering voting for him, make him explain himself. Why did he agree to work for Dan Conley, advancing the racist and classist mission of Dan Conley’ office? Did he do anything to change that agenda while he was there, and can anyone vouch for that claim? What has he done since then to absolve himself? How is he going to resist the pressure when he’s now the boss and his first real boss is “advising” him to adopt some terrible policy? If he can answer those questions satisfactorily, he might actually be a good DA. If not, McAuliffe is the clear choice.