Back in 2010, when Kamala Harris was running for Attorney General of California, the then city prosecutor had to face some tough questions regarding a crime lab scandal. Alleged cover-ups, cocaine, tense courtroom scenes, the scandal had all the trappings of a Netflix drama series.
So what happened? Turns out, a crime lab technician was becoming severely “UNDEPENDABLE,” in the words of one of Harris’s top deputies. The technician was eventually caught taking cocaine home from the lab and may have tainted evidence with unprofessional conduct.
Now whether or not Harris had anything to do with this, or could have been reasonably expected to sort the problem out, is debatable. However, it does appear that Harris had an obligation to tell defense lawyers of the situation, something she failed to do. A judge noted that the District Attorney’s office failed “to satisfy its constitutional and statutory obligations.”
Harris claimed that it was the responsibility of the police department to inform lawyers, a line of defense many critics dismissed. The crime lab was run by the police but it appears Harris had obligations as city prosecutor as well. Ultimately, Harris dismissed roughly 1,000 drug-related cases, owing to the risks of contaminated evidence.
Harris has since stepped up and said “the buck stops with me.” Regardless, Harris’s time as prosecutor and attorney general has emerged as one of her biggest challenges in the 2020 primary. While Harris has branded herself as a progressive prosecutor, many Democrats remain wary of her record.
Harris prosecuted thousands of drug cases, following state guidelines, for example. Her record of locking people up is coming under scrutiny. Harris also threatened parents of chronically truant children with prosecution.
Her “Back on Track” program, which gave certain young offenders a second chance by offering job training and education, on the other hand, is widely seen as a success. Only 10 percent of “Back on Track” graduates committed a crime within 2 years. This compares to 53 percent of Californian drug offenders.