I cannot remember the last time the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office scored a murder conviction of a celebrity. And neither can longtime D.A. spokesperson Sandi Gibbons. “I know there has not been one in the last 40 years,” she commented after the verdicts in the Phil Spector trial were read.
This is a huge win for D.A. Steve Cooley, a Republican who is serving a third term. Incumbent D.A.s are often defeated by challengers in their own offices in the midst of courtroom losses. The circuses surrounding the trials of OJ Simpson and Rampart officers hurt Gil Garcetti’s chances for a third term after he had coasted to an easy victory over incumbent Ira Reiner. Mr. Reiner had been hurt by the outcomes in the McMartin pre-school trials.
Cooley’s office has also had some losses, such as the acquittal of Robert Blake, but his public integrity unit has earned him widespread praise for weeding out corruption in some of the county’s smaller cities. In fact, Cooley is the first L.A. County D.A. to be elected to a third term since Buron Fitts in 1936.
Here in L.A., many political observers do not expect Cooley to seek a fourth term in 2012. So, the pundits are looking at sitting officeholders with law degrees who might run for D.A. in three years. Several local Assemblymembers have law degrees, as do L.A. City Attorney candidates Jack Weiss and Carmen Trutanich, both of whom have prosecutorial experience.
It’s way too early to pick a favorite in the 2012 D.A.’s race, but odds are the next District Attorney will not be an elected official but rather a prosecutor from within the D.A.’s office. Not since L.A. City Controller Ira Reiner ran for D.A. in 1984 has someone other than a deputy district attorney won that seat.
Therefore, history ought to show us that the next D.A. will be someone who has won newsworthy convictions as a Deputy D.A. That someone could be Alan Jackson who scored the first successful prosecution of a celebrity in a murder trial since…well, nobody remembers.