Criminal justice in 2020: A Q-and-A session with John Hummel | Crime & Justice


It was a giant 12 months in felony justice in Deschutes County and past — 2020 could be the most vital 12 months for the reason that civil rights period of the Sixties.

Social justice rallies have been held in Central Oregon, echoing sentiment felt nationwide after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis Law enforcement officials in Could. A sheriff was re-elected in Deschutes County. A new Bend Police chief was appointed. A brand new president was elected. And an Oregon ballot measure decriminalized most arduous medicine.

And all of it occurred throughout a historic pandemic that hampered an already understaffed Deschutes County Circuit Court docket.

This 12 months, Deschutes County District Legal professional John Hummel, a seasoned native public determine, assumed a higher public function within the highlight. The previous protection lawyer and Bend metropolis councilor took a couple of minutes to speak reform, police relations and what’s subsequent for him.

Progressive district attorneys have grow to be a type nationwide. Do you declare that title?

Certain. Progressive, to me, means you’re at all times trying to enhance. You’re not caught up to now. I’m at all times trying to enhance our felony justice system. It wants enchancment. That doesn’t imply it’s abysmal. I’m not a type of DAs who says our felony justice system is horrible.

What one change may have the largest optimistic impression within the felony justice system in Deschutes County?

Effectively, we’re seeing it with body cameras for the Bend Police Department and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Workplace. I’ve been advocating for that for years, and sadly, this is without doubt one of the positives that got here out of the killing of George Floyd.

I imply, Redmond has been a progressive chief on this: They’ve had bodycams for years, and it’s actually helped my workplace decide the details. Oftentimes, the details assist the police, like when an individual makes a false accusation towards a cop. And generally, the details assist the suspect. It’s nice as a result of I simply wish to know the details. And proper now, I’m higher capable of know the details when an incident occurred in Redmond than anyplace else within the county. And it’s good that’s going to vary.

In a current anonymous survey, Bend Law enforcement officials mentioned your workplace declines to cost a excessive variety of their arrestees. Does this characterize a dysfunctional disconnect between regulation enforcement and your workplace?

Look, I would like all my selections to be gratified by individuals above me. I don’t prefer it when a choose guidelines towards me, nevertheless it’s part of the system, proper? My job is to not rubber-stamp each case the police ship me.

I get that cops don’t really feel nice after we decline considered one of their circumstances. However I don’t really feel nice when a choose guidelines towards my workplace. And people judges who rule towards my workplace, they don’t really feel nice when their selections are reversed by the Oregon Court docket of Appeals, and people Court docket of Appeals judges don’t really feel good when the Oregon Supreme Court docket reverses their selections. That’s a part of the system. My job is to not serve the police or anybody apart from the Structure, the legal guidelines and justice. That’s what I deal with.

Measure 110, which handed this election and which decriminalizes arduous medicine, is fairly formidable, together with requires statewide dependancy restoration providers. Do you suppose Oregon and Deschutes County are prepared for the brand new regulation?

We’re if it’s enacted as Oregonians wished it to be. I used to be very involved when Gov. Brown despatched her finances to the Legislature and he or she was concerned about defunding the measure and never paying for remedy. I imply, this can be a package deal deal.

Oregonians mentioned drug dependancy is a medical subject, not a felony justice subject. However that’s solely going to work if we fund dependancy remedy. If it wasn’t going to be funded, I wouldn’t have supported it. So I’ll be advocating in Salem that the Legislature totally fund the remedy element of Measure 110.

You advocated to strike down Oregon’s nonunanimous jury regulation, which the U.S. Supreme Court docket did this April. But your workplace nonetheless intends to retry some individuals convicted by nonunanimous juries. Why?

The Supreme Court docket hasn’t mentioned they’re harmless. They’re sending the case again so the prosecutor can resolve find out how to proceed. However with the overwhelming majority of those circumstances, we’re continuing. In some circumstances, the witnesses aren’t out there or there are different causes we are able to’t proceed.

All year long your prosecutors have opposed motions to scale back bail for nonviolent offenders in custody previous to trial. Why preserve individuals in jail for issues like parole violations throughout a pandemic?

Effectively, we’ve actually requested for launch in lots of of circumstances, as properly. There are considerably fewer individuals in jail now than there have been previous to COVID. We’ve labored with the sheriff to create a flow-chart to say who needs to be held pretrial and who mustn’t held. Every time we ask for somebody to be held, we’re doing that as a result of we predict they’re both a threat to the general public or they’re a threat to not seem in courtroom. That’s why we make these arguments, and in the end, it’s by no means our choice, it’s at all times the choose who decides.

You’ve mentioned if President-elect Biden opts to exchange Oregon’s federal prosecutor, Billy J. Williams, you’d be “honored to be thought of.” What may you convey to that function?

Effectively, I simply wish to double down and say I’m 100% not making an attempt to run Billy Williams out of workplace. That must be clear. I assist Billy Williams. But when President Biden chooses to search for a brand new U.S. lawyer in Oregon, I’d be honored to be thought of. I’m happy with what our staff has achieved in Deschutes County during the last six years, making our justice system extra simply whereas additionally holding accountable the responsible.

It bothers me significantly that Black Lives Matter and assist for our police have been seen as mutually unique. That when you assist Black lives it’s a must to be anti-police, and when you assist the police it’s a must to imagine that Black lives don’t matter. I do know that you may assist the police and Black lives, as a result of I do. I do know it’s doable.

Do you could have different aspirations past Deschutes district lawyer?

Oh, I’ve acquired two years left on my time period, so it ain’t choice time but. I’ll resolve on the acceptable time. I’m honored day-after-day to characterize Deschutes County and I’d be honored to do it for a 3rd time period.


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