Grand Jury critical of DA's Office

Majority of jail crime reports not prosecuted and guidelines needed, states Grand Jury report

-- Staff reportMay 9, 2013 

The Madera County Grand Jury recently criticized the Madera County District Attorney's Office, stating the office has not prosecuted a majority of alleged crimes committed within the Madera County jail, resulting in a "safety issue for officers and inmates."

In its recent reports, the Grand Jury also stated that the Madera County Department of Corrections (county jail) "might not refer a crime to the District Attorney's Office because they perceive the DA's Office will not prosecute the case."

The Grand Jury recommended that the DA's office review internal jail crime reports and increase the number of prosecutions.

The DA Office's response was that the recommendation "will not be implemented."

"The district attorney has and will continue to review crime reports submitted by the jail. However, the District Attorney's Office can not ethically file cases that cannot be proven at trial beyond a reasonable doubt just to increase prosecutions," stated District Attorney Michael Keitz in a letter to Judge Lynn Jones of Madera Superior Court, in response to the Grand Jury's recommendations.

"The District Attorney's Office will again review with the jail management their investigation process, the proof necessary for conviction at trial, the availability of pre-filing forum and the appeal process for rejected cases."

Keitz added that his office is "sympathetic to the safety concerns of the jail staff" and is therefore requesting a budget increase for additional staff to support investigation of crimes committed in the jail.

Keitz said due to budgetary constraints, his office has been "chronically short of prosecutors, investigators and clerical staff for a number of years."

However, the Grand Jury reported that "The District Attorney's Office has three funded supervisory positions currently unfilled" and that there is a "lack of liaison and communication (feedback between the District Attorney's Office and the county jail" -- what they also recommended be remedied.

In Keitz's letter, he said his office disagrees that there is any lack of communication and that a liaison already exists.

The Grand Jury reported that the county jail also has "no MOU (memorandum of understanding) or guidelines in effect to refer criminal cases occurring in the facility for prosecution" -- unlike the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, and Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla (now Valley State Prison) -- and that an MOU for the county jail needs to be established.

The MOU in place, as of January, between the state prisons in Chowchilla and the DA's Office is an agreement to establish guidelines for prosecution of serious crimes committed in state institutions, investigation of criminal activity, release of inmate records to the DA's office, and notification of inmate death or other major incidents, according to the Grand Jury reports.

Keitz's office said they do not plan to create any MOU for the county jail.

"An MOU (a contract) with the state prisons is necessary because the State of California reimburses the District Attorney's Office for prosecution and investigation services," stated Keitz in the letter. "An MOU cannot require the district attorney to file a case. Neither can it affect the evidentiary burden the district attorney is constitutionally required to prove in court. For these reasons, an MOU is not required, nor utilized, by nearly all the other numerous law enforcement agencies operating within Madera County."

The Grand Jury reported that they have "concerns about the lack of filing criminal complaints of crimes committed within the facilities" after an annual inspection and tour of the county jail in October, and after a September inspection and tour of Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, and Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla (now Valley State Prison).

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