This Public Defender Running For King County Prosecutor Says the Office Has a Culture Problem

Meet Daron Morris.

Comments

1

Sounds like a rare, actually substantive debate between two people who care about the public and criminal justice. That's pretty incredible these days.

2

Good. He's not wrong that prosecutors here and everywhere else care about 'wins' far more than any idea of justice. Their careers depend on win rate, not philosophical notions.

But. He can't fix the core problem. It isn't the 95% plea rate. That's not out of line with national averages. Most cases that reach the charging stage aren't attractive CSI agents and tough but caring cops combing evidence and surprise endings in court. Mostly a drunk man is arrested after admitting to hitting his wife, the driver of the stolen hot-wired car has no license and so on.

Even if he wins election Mr. Morris will have to maintain the levels of plea bargain both to keep cases from backing up beyond constitutional requirements and as a matter of budget. Preparing for and arguing in court is very labor intensive, therefore expensive. Already low lwbwl crimes were summarily dismissed en masse just recently because the Prosecutor's Office lacked budget to deal with them.

One big problem is that pleas are made necessary by all the consensual crimes clogging dockets. Shifting most personal use drug crimes to diversion programs or legalization, legalizing prostitution and other legislative changes are what's needed- and won't happen since it's not politically feasible.

3

From Crosscut
"Although Morris is not technically a Peoples Party candidate — the community-driven organization that nearly advanced Nikkita Oliver through the mayoral primaries — he does have support from some of its members. Morris said Oliver’s campaign “and its focus on speaking up for the most vulnerable people in our community” inspired him."

“What I need to think about is how to be a voice for changing an institution as a community,” he said. “If I’m elected, on Jan. 1, 2019, the community is going to be in the Prosecutor’s Office, doing trainings, being heard. We’re going to get the community to tell us and train us and we’re going to shift our philosophy.”

Great, march and protest rule in the Prosecutors Office. The far left can't stop out progressing themselves.

4

He seems like a well-meaning lefty dumbshit. I think he can get 35 percent of the vote county-wide.

6

Morris sounds like a great candidate- this race will provide an important conversation in Seattle. Many thanks for the profile. But @ Stranger Editors: there are at least 5 typos in this article- would you please clean this up? Thanks.

7

Why do you pick a fight with reducing the number of car thefts before prison from 12 to 3, and how do you compare that to violence/rape?

Hiiiii, soulless automaton.

Remember when we learned that death penalty cases are exorbitantly expensive as an argument against it?

So accepting a plea would be, more often than not, both a wise personal decision and a service to society?

Yep. That’s a repub. Sometimes they’re not the worst person to have in punitive positions, when this is the alternative.

8

Satterberg countered nearly all of Morris' points with progressive advances he's made in King County. It really sounds like Morris is trying to paint him as a party-line Republican, and that couldn't be further from the truth.

It was cringe-worthy reading Morris attack Satterberg on vacating marijuana charges, when Satterberg's office is one of the leading agencies in the push for doing so. He should've known that.

Seems like both candidates know what they're talking about, and I'd like to see where this goes. While Morris understands the laws and court systems, I'm afraid he doesn't have the pragmatic managerial experience to run a $141M budget with almost 500 employees.

That being said, I'm always up for new blood.

9

Morris has awesome hair!

10

"No sympathy for johns" my ass. Anyone who opposes the Nordic model (a model bravely implemented by our City Attorney and King County Prosecuting Attorney) FROM THE LEFT is an apologist for pimps and johns. The only difference between Morris's position and Satterberg's is that Satterberg thinks pimps and johns should be prosecuted and Morris thinks they're A-OK. Their position on prosecuting prosecuted women is identical. So it's pretty rich for Morris to claim that he thinks the current policy doesn't listen to "sex workers." Yeah maybe, if you classify pimps as "sex workers."

11

I love idealism. Well we have the crime, the drugs and the homelessness, the wage stagnation and high rents, let’s add legalized prostitution to the mix and meet those “kids where they are at”? It really wouldn’t be a perfect Stranger article without subjective crooning of Crosscut and one of its socialist-pseudo-communist ((https://seattlepeoplesparty.com) spokesmen in the traditional pink Seattle bunny (or is that a cat) suit: Dae Shik Kim Hawkins https://medium.com/@daedaejr who in an earlier, now edited version of the Crosscut article claimed the Seattle’s Peoples Party had some vetting contribution of our knight in shining cotton blend. (And yet, oddly enough, it’s Seattle’s Prosceutors office is the one with a culture problem). I agree with @1, but if Mr. Morris really cares, then he will reach out to Mr. Satterberg and work together post election to bring the best of both forms of thinking to the table to make Seattle Justice system better. Without the interference of - “others”.

12

Is he a Jewish princess?

13

typo in #10, "prostituted" not "prosecuted"

14

Mr. Satterberg has been a true reformer. Through programs like LEAD, he has helped reverse some of the most damaging aspects of the mass incarceration culture that developed around the war on drugs that filled our prisons with harmless offenders.
By contrast, It saddens me to see him repeat these same errors in the war on Sex Workers through the arrest of sex workers, customers and his continued refusal to consult sex workers about the polices that will most impact them.
His ongoing support for FOSTA is perhaps the most troubling attack on sex workers, which has not only made life more dangerous for them, but has also inadvertently promoted more human trafficking by encouraging a larger black market for buying sex. The damage the repeal of section 230 has had on free speech, due process and the rule of law is no longer in doubt and is similar to the damage done during the "tough on drug" wars of the 1980s and the "beer felonies" of the 1930's.
Perhaps most troubling is the private funding his office received from Demand Abolition to enforce this policy in a way designed to please them. A Prosecutor exercises enormous power and must remain above even the appearance of conflict. The practice of Prosecutors taking private money is every bit as damaging and co corrosive as police using civil forfeiture.
The Intercept article paints a troubling picture of influence pedaling and raises valid concerns about Mr. Satterberg's willingness to enforce the law for the folks in King County rather than multi millionaire donors.
Going forward, we will now wonder when there is a policy change about who we arrest if a multi-millionaire is backing the program. Mr. Satterberg appears to be a decent man who I doubt would knowing create the conflict of interest be now finds himself in. I wish he would just come forward and renounce all private money given to prosecutors to push an agenda.
The public has a right to trust that their DA is enforcing the law for them, rather than some multi millionaire oil heiress from Texas.

15

So Morris objects to Satterburg lowering the number of car theft convictions it takes to send someone to prison from 12 to three. At what point do we decide that we are done waiting for someone to figure it out and learn their lesson? How many car thefts would it take for Morris to agree that it's finally time for them to face a consequence for their crimes?

And length of stay in prison makes no difference? Okay Mr. Morris, tell their victims that you're going to let the rapists and murderers out after a few weeks instead of years.

16

I think it's interesting that Lisa Daugaard, director of the PDA (Public Defender Association), says she's not supporting Morris's candidacy, and had this to say: "Dan Satterberg is one of the most innovative and courageous reform prosecutors in the country. ... When people come up from within an institution and are willing to lead a profound change to that institution, they can be a lot more effective than an outsider who doesn’t have the respect or know the culture of the thing they are trying to change.”

17

@16: See this profile of Daugaard by Erica C. Barnett.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, initially a LEAD skeptic, says Daugaard didn’t just convince him to give her long-shot proposal a try; she changed his mind about how the criminal justice system should respond to drug-related offenses. “She’s taught me a lot about harm reduction and how a community-based response can be a lot more effective than just dragging someone into the courtroom, where we don’t have the tools to change people who are in a drug-dependent state,” Satterberg says. “Ten years ago, she might have thought [prosecutors] were the enemy, and now we’re important partners. She’s a formidable adversary, but she’s an even better friend.”

See this 2017 "Council Connection" post by Sally Bagshaw of Seattle City Council.

As King County Prosecuting Attorney Satterberg wrote in a letter to the Board of Health dated January 19, 2017, “I want you to know that in this drug crisis, unlike the response to crack cocaine in the 80’s and 90’s, that I believe that the criminal justice system should not take a primary role, and that instead we should follow the lead of public health professionals.”

See this 2018 editorial by Dan Satterberg himself.

In my role as prosecuting attorney, I have the opportunity to help shape a public health response to the medical condition of substance use disorder. Our response has to be informed by science and by our own personal experiences with family and friends affected by substance use disorder.

There is no single path that will work for everyone, but we owe it to people struggling with addiction, and their families, to help them make informed choices about their health, and options to manage their addictions.

Our goal should be to keep people alive while also helping them reduce the harm to themselves and to our community. We have a successful model in Seattle with the LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program where connections are made between people who use drugs and case managers who offer unconditional help to people who stopped believing they were worthy of help. A stubborn insistence upon abstinence as a precondition to receiving help is the opposite of harm reduction, an idea pioneered at the University of Washington.

18

Links and block quotations failed above.

https://thecisforcrank.com/2018/02/07/meet-seattles-reformer-in-chief-lisa-daugaard/
https://council.seattle.gov/2017/01/19/opioid-addiction-recommendations-best-practices-and-a-united-front/
https://crosscut.com/2018/05/my-sisters-drug-addiction-and-what-it-taught-me

19

@14, Section 230 was not repealed. A small exception was carved out of it. That's all.

20

9 And he's a dead ringer for "Sebastian" on NCIS-NEW ORLEANS.

21

@14, "a small exception" reflects the propaganda used to sell this awful law, but the impact on both online speech and sex workers has been chilling and devastating. Even it's sponsors no longer want to talk about or defend it when asked. Nice to meet the last person still calling it a "small carve out."

I suggest you Google FOSTA. You will not see many journalists defending the harm this law has done beyond you and apparently Mr. Satterberg. Disregarding the 1st amendment always a tempting way to virtue signal constituents, but the cost this bad law is being measured in dead sex workers forced to work on the street. If Mr. Satterberg considers that a "win," he is welcome run on that.
In the meantime, here's a more informed view from Senator Wyden:

https://frontpageconfidential.com/ron-wyden-senator-sesta-section-230/

It's so rare to find a politician that favors real solutions over cheap virtue signaling.

22

@16: "I think it's interesting that Lisa Daugaard, director of the PDA (Public Defender Association), says she's not supporting Morris's candidacy"

Am I the only one finds PDA Daugaard's full throated political support for a standing DA chilling?

Our criminal justice system is built on an adversarial model where prosecutors often try to win at all costs and defense counsel does all they can to defend their clients. Judges are expected to act an independent arbiters who ensure both sides play by the rules.
With the threat of harsher penalties leading to a plea rate around 94%, what Mr. Satterberg proudly calls "in line with the national average," prosecutors and judges increasingly serve the role of processing the accused from charges to prison rather than working as independent bodies the remaining 6% of the time.
There is currently only one remaining obstacle to ensure that 6% are adequately defended and that role is filled by the defense attorney. This should lead to a respectful, but natural tension between the two groups. Once the defense counsel is reduced to boosters for the prosecuting attorney there is very little left within the system to ensure those who can't afford a trial get a fair one.
Perhaps Ms. Daugaard is willing to leave their defense to the kind nature and good intentions of the prosecutor, but the idea of an adversarial relationship where everyone is most interested in supporting the prosecutor does concern me.