Walnut Creek, CA – A California lawyer vying to become the next Contra Costa County District Attorney said that he would not seek the death penalty in cases where a defendant killed a police officer, because being murdered in the line of duty was “part of the risk” that accompanies careers in law enforcement.
Lawrence Strauss, who has been in private practice for 23 years, made his assertion during an Apr. 24 forum, after he and two other candidates running for the district attorney position were asked whether or not they would seek the death penalty in such cases, The Mercury News reported.
“I feel sorry for the officer,” Strauss conceded, as he argued that the death penalty should be reserved for situations like the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, not for the death of an individual officer.
“It’s part of the risk they take as being an officer of the law,” he said.
Strauss, who previously spent two years working as a prosecutor in Hawaii, said that he aimed to end “wealth-based disparities,” and wanted to promote policies “that aid undocumented communities,” The Mercury News reported.
He said he also wanted to end both the “war on drugs,” and “excessive sentences” for convicted criminals, according to The Mercury News.
Contra Costa County Sheriff Sergeant Sean Welch, who is also the agency’s officers’ union president, said Strauss’ comments were "extremely inappropriate” and “archaic.”
“Law enforcement officers are hired to ensure the public’s safety and enforce the constitution and laws of the state. We are not pawns for a brutal dictator,” Sgt. Welch told The Mercury News. “Strauss’ performance...should have made it clear to anyone voting in the primary election that he should not even be on the ballot for district attorney.”
Richmond Police Officer’s Association president Officer Ben Therriault agreed, and said Strauss was “tone deaf” with regards to issues of public safety.
“The men and women in our profession don’t sign up to be hurt or killed, or [to] receive less justice than our fellow citizens we protect,” Officer Therriault said.
After being blasted by the law enforcement unions, Strauss released a statement thanking police for their service.
Defendants convicted of killing an individual law enforcement officer should be sentenced to life without parole, he reiterated in the statement.