Law Review Symposium – Volume 57

The Future of Prosecution

From the pages of law reviews to the evening news, the role of the prosecutor has become a divisive issue. What is a prosecutor’s obligation to justice? Should it include mitigating, or even addressing, racial and socioeconomic inequity? How should this obligation be balanced against community expectations of safety and retribution? In our polarized political climate, it is all the more important that we have a robust debate in which all viewpoints are represented and considered.

Join us for a lively discussion featuring a diverse spectrum of district attorneys ranging from traditional, progressive, and everything in between.

Reception to follow.


Event Schedule

Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:30am

Welcome Remarks
9:00 – 9:15am

Panel 1- Deterrence, Justice, and Community Safety

9:15-10:45 a.m.

A prosecutor’s most base power Is to seek the punishment of an individual for criminal acts, yet today this core function is hotly debated.  How should this power to deprive one of their freedom be exercised? Is deterrence an effective, or even necessary, tool in preventing crime? And if so, in what circumstances does the moral necessity of parity and justice outweigh societal expectations of retribution?  This panel will feature a mix of prosecutors, both reform and traditional, who will discuss the practices of their office surrounding charging, plea bargaining, and diversion, as well as how these decisions contribute to a safer, more just society.  Panelists will discuss the observed effects of their policies in the present and the anticipated future effects of their policies, as well as how they view their more political role in ensuring public safety.

Moderator

Katie Moran
Associate Professor and Co-Director of ABES
University of San Francisco School of Law

Panelists

Diana Becton
District Attorney
Contra Costa County

George Gascon
District Attorney
Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office

Panel 2 – Wrongful Convictions and the Adversarial Prosecutor

11:00-12:30 p.m.

Traditionally, our adversarial system of trial presupposes that prosecutors must zealously seek a guilty verdict and pursue the maximum possible charges.  How should prosecutors approach truth and justice in the courtroom? How does this, sometimes competitive, adversarial relationship square with our notions of equal justice under the law?  While juries are the ultimate arbiters of innocence, what is a prosecutor’s duty to avoid wrongful convictions? This panel will feature a mix of prosecutors, both traditional and reform, who will discuss their approaches in charging up or down, seeking higher or lower sentences, and how they ultimately perceive their role in the deliverance of justice.  Panelists will also discuss how externalities to the deliverance of justice such as racially biased policing, wrongful confessions, both police and prosecutorial misconduct, and laws intended to target specific communities affect their approach to prosecution.

Moderator

Richard Leo
Hamill Family Chair Professor of Law and Social Psychology
University of San Francisco School of Law

Panelists

Thien Ho
District Attorney Elect
Sacramento County

Cassandra Jenecke
District Attorney
Tuolumne County

Laurie Levenson
Professor of Law and John Lewis Chair for Civil Rights and Social Justice
Loyola Law School


Lunch

12:30 – 1:15pm


Keynote Address by Kim Foxx

1:15-2:15 p.m.

Kim Foxx
State Attorney

Panel 3: Yutico Briley’s Singular Legal Odyssey and Collaborative Exoneration

2:30-4:00 p.m.

Description: When Yutico Briley was 19, he was arrested on a street in New Orleans where he was walking with friends and brought to a downtown police station.  A white man who had been robbed at gunpoint in the near darkness 18 hours earlier was sitting in a police car twenty feet away.  The police forced Yutico, who is Black, to stand in the car’s headlights.  The man identified Yutico and he was charged with armed robbery.  Yutico had an alibi–he was 8 miles away at a hotel with a friend when the crime occurred.  But his lawyers did not present that evidence or any defense at all.  After a trial that lasted less than three hours, Yutico was convicted and sentenced to 60 years to life with no possibility of parole. Eight years later, in 2019, Yutico heard the New York Times Magazine journalist Emily Bazelon on NPR discussing her new book CHARGED, which examined how a new generation of “progressive prosecutors” had come to power and were reforming the system.  Yutico wrote Emily a letter asking, “Can you please help me get out of prison?”  Emily asked her sister, Lara, if the University of San Francisco Racial Justice Clinic would take Yutico’s case.  They did.  At first, even though the evidence of Yutico’s innocence was clear, the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office fought his release.  But then in the winter of 2020, a progressive prosecutor named Jason Williams was elected Orleans Parish DA.  He started a Civil Rights Unit and appointed Emily Maw, the former director of the Innocence Project of New Orleans, to run it.  Yutico’s case was the first she examined in her new role.  In March 2021, through a collaborative effort between the Orleans Parish DA and the USF Racial Justice Clinic, Yutico was exonerated following a ruling by judge Angel Harris, who had also recently won election to the bench on a reform platform.  In July 2021, Emily Bazelon told the story of Yutico’s singular legal odyssey in a cover story for the New York Times Magazine.  In this panel, Yutico Briley, Emily Bazelon, Emily Maw, and RJC student Laura Odujinrin will talk about how it all happened.  Lara Bazelon will moderate.

Moderator

Laura Bazelon
Phillip and Muriel C. Barnett Chair in Trial Advocacy; Director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice and Racial Justice Clinics and Associate Dean for Faculty Scholarship
University of San Francisco School of Law

Panelists

Yutico Briley
Exoneree

Emily Bazelon
Assistant Professor of Higher Education Administration
Director, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives
George Washington University

Laura Odujinrin


Meet the Speakers

Emily Bazelon
Staff Writer, New York Times Magazine; Truman Capote Fellow for Creative Writing, Yale Law School

Emily Bazelon

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine, the Truman Capote Fellow for Creative Writing and Law at Yale Law School, and a co-host of Slate’s Political Gabfest, a popular weekly podcast. She is the author of two national bestsellers published by Penguin Random House: Charged, about the power of prosecutors, and Sticks and Stones, about how to prevent bullying. In 2020, Charged won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the current interest category and the Silver Gavel Book Award from the American Bar Association. It was also a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism from the New York Public Library.

Before joining the Times Magazine, Emily was a writer and editor for nine years at Slate. She is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School.

Lara Bazelon
Phillip and Muriel C. Barnett Chair in Trial Advocacy; Director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice and Racial Justice Clinics and Associate Dean for Faculty Scholarship
University of San Francisco School of Law

Laura Bazelon

Lara Bazelon is a law professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law where she holds the Barnett Chair in Trial Advocacy and directs the criminal and racial justice clinics. A graduate of Columbia University and NYU School of Law, Lara clerked for the Honorable Harry Pregerson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and spent seven years as a trial lawyer in the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Los Angeles. Lara came to the University of San Francisco after spending three years as a visiting associate professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, where she directed the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent.  Lara is the author of three books: Rectify (2018), A Good Mother (2021), and Ambitious Like a Mother (2022).  Lara’s op-eds, essays, and long form pieces have been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic Magazine, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, and Slate.

Diana Becton
District Attorney
Contra Costa County

Diana Becton

District Attorney Diana Becton has spent most of her professional career as a judge, lawyer, and manager.  In 2017, she was sworn in as the 25th District Attorney for Contra Costa County.  Following her appointment from the Board of Supervisors, she was elected to the position in June 2018, and re-elected in June 2022. District Attorney Becton served for 22 years as a judge in Contra Costa County, where she was elected as Presiding Judge. She is Past President of the National Association of Women Judges, the nation’s leading voice for women in the judiciary, and Past Chair of the State Bar Council on Access and Fairness.

District Attorney Becton leads a prosecutorial office of approximately 225 lawyers, investigators, and staff.  She is the first woman, the first African American, and the first person of color to serve as Contra Costa District Attorney since the office was established in 1850.

Her message of reform and restoring trust includes a vision for an office that is fair, transparent, forward thinking, committed to safeguarding all communities from crimes that threaten our health, well-being, and livelihood, and working on positive outcomes for youth.

A native of California she is a product of Oakland Public schools and a graduate of Golden Gate University School of Law.  Most recently, District Attorney Becton earned a Masters of Theological Studies at Pacific School of Religion.

District Attorney Becton serves as a frequent lecturer and panelist, and she continues to participate in many community outreach activities.  She serves on the Board of Directors for The Family Justice Center, the West Contra Costa Youth Services Bureau, and the Castlemont High School Alumni Association.  She is married and has two adult sons.

Yutico Briley
Exoneree

Yutiko Briley

When he was a teenager, in 2013, Yutico Briley was convicted of an armed robbery he did not commit.  Even though the robbery lasted less than two minutes and no one was hurt, the judge sentenced Yutico to serve 60 years in prison with no possibility of parole. This practice, in which the prosecution can invoke the state’s habitual offender law against anyone convicted of a felony who, like Yutico, had only a single nonviolent felony prior conviction, was used thousands of times by then-District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, overwhelmingly against Black men and boys.  Yutico never gave up fighting for his innocence. After he heard the journalist Emily Bazelon on NPR talking about the movement to elect progressive prosecutors, he wrote her a letter asking for help.  Emily asked the USF Racial Justice Clinic if they would take Yutico’s case and they did.  In December 2020, reform prosecutor Jason Williams was elected Orleans Parish DA and the judge who sentenced Yutico was ousted.  In March 2021, through a collaboration between Williams’ Civil Rights Division, headed by Emily Maw, and the USF RJC, Yutico was exonerated by Judge Angel Harris.

Kim Foxx
State Attorney
Cook County State Attorney’s Office

Kim Foxx

Kimberly M. Foxx is the first African American woman to lead the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office – the second largest prosecutor’s office in the country. Kim took office on December 1, 2016 with a vision for transforming the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office into a fairer, more forward-thinking agency focused on rebuilding the public trust, promoting transparency, and being proactive in making all communities safe.  She was elected for a second term in 2020.

As Cook County State’s Attorney, Kim has undertaken substantial criminal justice reforms focused on public safety and equity. She has revamped the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, resulting in overturned convictions in over 175 cases, including the first-ever mass exoneration in Cook County for 15 men whose convictions stemmed from misconduct by a Chicago Police Officer. She has been a leader in bond reform, instructing prosecutors to agree to recognizance bonds where appropriate, and reviewing bond decisions in cases where people are detained because they are unable to pay bonds of $1,000 or less. Kim has taken the lead on prioritizing resources away from low-level offenses to focus on violent crime, including raising the threshold for approving felony charges for retail theft to $1,000, and declining to prosecute misdemeanor traffic offenses for failure to pay tickets and fines. Kim played a vital role in passing legislation to legalize cannabis and provide the broadest and most equitable conviction relief possible. Providing this relief is not only a critical part of righting the wrongs of the failed war on drugs that disproportionately harmed communities of color; it is also a statement of her values and commitment to justice for all.

Kim is the first and only prosecutor in the country to make felony case-level data available to the public. The open data portal provides unprecedented access and transparency into the work of a prosecutor’s office. Her goal is to make the Cook County the most transparent prosecutor’s office in the country.

Kim served as an Assistant State’s Attorney for 12 years, and was also a guardian ad litem, where she worked as an attorney advocating for children navigating the child welfare system. Prior to being elected State’s Attorney, Kim served as Chief of Staff for the Cook County Board President, where she was the lead architect of the county’s criminal justice reform agenda to address racial disparities in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

Born and raised in Cabrini Green on Chicago’s Near North Side, Kim is a graduate of Southern Illinois University, where she earned a B.A. in Political Science and a J.D. from the SIU School of Law.

George Gascón
District Attorney
Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office

George Gascon

On Dec. 7, 2020, George Gascón was sworn in as the 43rd District Attorney of Los Angeles County, delivering his visionary approach to criminal justice reform to the nation’s largest local prosecutorial office.

On his first day in office, Gascón ended the use of the death penalty as a sentence in Los Angeles County; stopped charging children as adults; eliminated many sentencing enhancements that do not benefit public safety and contribute to mass incarceration; and, in accordance with state law, removed cash bail for misdemeanor or nonserious or nonviolent felony offenses.

For the former police officer, public safety remains his highest priority.

As a leader among progressive prosecutors, Gascón is working to build a national model of criminal justice reform that supports and restores crime victims while addressing mass incarceration, racism and social systemic inequities.

He was the first District Attorney in the nation to call for an end to cash bail and to launch an automatic record clearing program for marijuana convictions and the only District Attorney in California to support a state law that created a stricter standard for when police can use deadly force.

Gascón rose through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department from patrol officer to Assistant Chief of Police. He served as Chief of Police in Mesa, Ariz., before being named San Francisco’s first Latino Chief of Police. He was appointed San Francisco District Attorney in 2011, becoming the nation’s first police chief to become District Attorney.

At age 13, Gascón migrated with his parents to the United States from Cuba. After serving in the U.S. Army, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history from California State University, Long Beach, and later received a law degree from Western State University, College of Law.

Thienvu Ho
District Attorney Elect
Sacramento County

Thienvu Ho

Thienvu Ho is the District Attorney Elect for Sacramento County. He has been an attorney for 23 years. In that time, he has successfully prosecuted sexual assault, gang, and homicide cases. He was the supervisor of the Gang and Hate Crime Unit and has personally charged and prosecuted hate crimes. He currently serves in executive management and oversees the Justice and Community Relations Bureau, which handles post-conviction litigation, training, community prosecution and media outreach.

He has previously taught for the California District Attorney’s Association (CDAA) on “Voir Dire in Sexual Assault and Homicide Cases,” P.O.S.T instruction for peace officers and is currently an adjunct professor for trial advocacy at McGeorge School of Law. He helped to build a nationally ranked trial advocacy program at McGeorge, winning multiple regional and national mock trial competitions. He recently sat as a panelist for a NAPABA/NAPIPA hate crimes virtual discussion. Additionally, he has met with numerous local API groups to discuss hate crimes and incidents.

He is the former Vice President of the National Asian Pacific Islander Prosecutors Association (NAPIPA)’s Northern California Chapter. In 2017, he was presented with both the NAPIPA and Sacramento District Attorney’s Office Prosecutor of the Year Award.

He also successfully prosecuted the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer, who committed 13 murders and over 50 sexual assaults in 11 different jurisdictions throughout California. Michelle McNamara wrote about the case in her book, “I’ll be Gone in the Dark.” The case has also been featured on CNN, HBO, 20/20 and countless news outlets across the world.

Cassandra Jenecke ’13
District Attorney
Tuolumne County

Cassandra Jenecke

Cassandra is a California-native born in San Jose. In her early years, Cassandra wanted to be both a lawyer and a veterinarian. Cassandra graduated cum laude from Boston University with a bachelor of arts in Political Science and History. After graduating, she moved back to California where she went to law school at the University of San Francisco School of Law.

While in there, Cassandra  discovered she wanted to be a prosecutor after observing an incredibly moving preliminary hearing in an elder sexual assault case during her judicial externship with the Contra Costa County Superior Court. Her goal became serving survivors of crime and holding offenders accountable through the vigorous, equitable, and ethical application of the law.

Cassandra completed multiple externships with various DA’s Offices in the Bay Area, including the Santa Clara and San Francisco DA’s Offices. After graduating law school cum laude, Cassandra studied for and passed the California Bar Exam.  While interviewing with DA’s Offices, Cassandra volunteered as a Deputy District Attorney in the misdemeanor unit of the Marin County DA’s Office.

Cassandra found her home at the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office on February 9, 2015, after being hired by then-newly-elected District Attorney Laura Krieg as a deputy district attorney. One year later, Cassandra became an adjunct professor of business law at Columbia College.

From misdemeanor trial attorney to minor’s counsel for Tuolumne County’s foster youth to felony and vertical domestic violence prosecutor, Cassandra has dedicated herself to serving Tuolumne County’s most vulnerable populations. Cassandra has completed over 40 jury trials with an 80% success rate. She’s also handled complex child molest, sexual assault, driving under the influence causing injury or death, and homicide cases. Cassandra has led and managed the lifer hearings unit, appearing with victim’s and their next of kin at over twenty hearings. Lastly, Cassandra handles and  is guardian to court-support dog Stewart, a five-and-a-half year old golden retriever, who came to the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office in 2018.

She was unanimously appointed as District Attorney on March 19, 2021, after a lengthy application and public interview process with the Board of Supervisors. She was elected District Attorney on June 7, 2022, and will be sworn in for a six year term in January 2023. Since becoming the DA, Cassandra has implemented a paperless file system, decreased the Office’s case filing rate consistent with the tenets of justice, implemented the County’s first misdemeanor, pre-filing diversion program, and successfully applied for competitive grant funding to operate our Victim Witness Program and Sunshine Child Advocacy Center.

Richard Leo
Hamill Family Chair Professor of Law and Social Psychology

Richard Leo

Richard A. Leo, PhD, JD, is the Hamill Family Professor of Law and Psychology at University San Francisco School of Law, and a Fellow in the Institute for Legal Research at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. He was previously a tenured professor of psychology and criminology at U.C. Irvine for a decade (1997-2006), and a professor of sociology and adjunct professor of law at the University of Colorado, Boulder (1994-1997).

Dr. Leo is one of the leading experts in the world on police interrogation practices, the impact of Miranda, psychological coercion, false confessions, and the wrongful conviction of the innocent. Dr. Leo has authored more than 100 articles in leading scientific and legal journals as well as several books, including the multiple award-winning Police Interrogation and American Justice (Harvard University Press, 2008); The Wrong Guys: Murder, False Confessions and the Norfolk Four (The New Press, 2008) with Tom Wells; and, most recently, Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2012) with George C. Thomas III. He is currently working on a book that is tentatively entitled, The Innocence Revolution: The American Movement Against Wrongful Convictions (with Tom Wells).

Dr. Leo has won numerous individual and career achievement awards for research excellence and distinction. These include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Crime and Juvenile Delinquency Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, the William J. Chambliss Lifetime Achievement Award from the Law and Society Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, the Saleem Shah Career Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association, the Paul Tappan Award from the Western Society of Criminology, the Ruth Shonle Cavan Young Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology, the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Division of Policing of the American Society of Criminology, and the Academic Excellence Award from the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group. Among his many book awards is the prestigious Herbert Jacob Book Prize from the Law and Society Association. Dr. Leo has also received awards from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, the American Psychology-Law Society, the American Academy of Forensic Psychology, the American Sociological Association, and the Pacific Sociological Association.

Laurie Levenson
Professor of Law and David W. Burcham Chair in Ethical Advocacy
Loyola Law School

Laurie Levenson

Professor Levenson is the David W. Burcham Chair in Ethical Advocacy at Loyola Law School where she teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, ethics, white collar crime, and trial advocacy. Professor Levenson founded Loyola’s Project for the Innocent and has participated in the exoneration of at least 14 individuals since its creation. She is the author of numerous articles and books, including The Federal Criminal Rules Handbook (Thomson Reuters), Criminal Procedure (Aspen Publishers), Evidence (Aspen Publishers). Her articles include: Do Prosecutors Really Represent the People? A New Proposal for Civilian Oversight of Prosecutors, 58 Duquesne L. Rev. 279 (2020), Politicization of Prosecutors, 16 Ohio St. J. Crim. Law (2019), and The Problem with Cynical Prosecutor’s Syndrome, 20 Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law 2 (March 2016).

Professor Levenson served as an Assistant United States Attorney from 1981-1989. She was Chief of Appeals, Chief of Training and an Assistant Division Chief. Professor Levenson attended Stanford University and UCLA School of Law, where she was the Chief Articles Editor for the Law Review. She clerked for the Honorable James Hunter, III, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Professor Levenson lectures regularly for the Federal Judicial Center and has served on numerous Commissions addressing criminal justice reform. She has also testified before the California State Legislature and the Senate Judiciary Committee and frequently provides commentary on high-profile legal matters.

Katie Moran ’16
Associate Professor and Co-Director of ABES
University of San Francisco School of Law

Katie Moran

Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Academic and Bar Exam Success (ABES) program Katie Moran is a proud USF School of Law alumna. An advocate and deputy district attorney in Contra Costa County for nearly four years, she tried 29 jury trials to verdict. In her final year at that office, Moran worked on the felony domestic violence team, where she handled a caseload of 30 cases from filing to resolution. At USF, Moran teaches Evidence and a class called “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Lawyers,” designs curriculum to support the 1L and 2L students, and counsels and trains 3Ls and graduates in their preparation for the bar exam.


MCLE Credits

Earn up to 5.5 hours of CLE credit.* 1.5 hours of MCLE credit is available for each panel attended.

Questions? Email Kenji Quijano or call (415) 422-5896.

*This activity has been approved for Minimum Continuing Legal Education credit by the State Bar of California in the amount of 5.5 credit hours. The University of San Francisco School of Law is an approved provider of MCLE and certifies that this activity conforms to the standards for approved educational activities prescribed by the rules and regulations of the State Bar of California governing minimum continuing legal education.