Judge must stand corrected on Bonnie Dumanis’ conviction rate

I noted with interest the letter (April 10) from retired Justice Howard Wiener criticizing the computation of the conviction rate of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. It should first be noted that Wiener’s entire career has been spent on the “civil” or business side of the law, so his comments on the field of the practice of criminal law should be taken with a few grains of salt.

He quotes the fact that in the 15,567 convictions obtained from the filing of 16,406 cases (a 94 percent ratio), some were misdemeanors rather than felonies. If we adopt his assumption that every case filed in the year he cites was in fact completed, that means just 839 (only 5 percent) resulted in an acquittal or “not guilty” finding. I’d call that an outstanding record.

If we look at Wiener’s field of civil cases, any time an attorney wins a judgment for his client that’s a “win” — you don’t look at the size of the judgment or quibble about whether or not he or she won everything the client was seeking. Why would you do that in criminal cases?

Justice Wiener also suggests that DAs should be subject to term limits in their service. I served as a Deputy DA under two different DAs who each served with distinction for 24 years — James Don Keller (1947-1971) and Edwin L. Miller Jr. (1971-1995). They were both responsible for great reforms and innovations in the administration of justice in this county.

The facts reveal that the retired justice served on the Court of Appeals for 16 years — is he now suggesting that appellate justices should also be subject to term limits? u

Charles L. Patrick, La Jolla

Retired Deputy District Attorney
and Retired Judge of the Superior Court

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Posted by Staff on Apr 22, 2014. Filed under News, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

1 Comment for “Judge must stand corrected on Bonnie Dumanis’ conviction rate”

  1. Stephen Anear

    Like Judge Patrick I am a retired Deputy DA. Unlike him however I totally agree with Justice Weiner’s math. In fact he is not the first to debunk DA Dumanis’ mythical 94% felony conviction rate. Both the Voice of San Diego and San Diego City Beat have looked at this issue in detail. They both found that the real felony conviction rate is between 69 and 70 percent. When a felony case is plea bargained down to a misdemeanor, it is absolutely not considered a felony conviction. It is a misdemeanor conviction. It is also not widely known that Dumanis’ office only issues three out of four felony cases brought to it by law enforcement agencies. Cherry picking the cases you issue obviously favors a higher conviction rate. Another interesting issue is that Dumanis’ office tries only about half the number of felony trials per year as the DA administration that preceeded hers and with 20% more deputy DAs. The bottom line is that Dumanis’ claim that her office has a 94 % felony conviction rate is not true.

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