“A review of the case, based on court records and interviews with key players, presents a portrait of Harris scrambling to manage a crisis that her staff saw coming but for which she was unprepared,” The Washington Post reported in March. “It also shows how Harris, after six years as district attorney, had failed to put in place written guidelines for ensuring that defendants were informed about potentially tainted evidence and testimony that could lead to unfair convictions.”
In fact, her office initially blamed the San Francisco police for failing to tell defense attorneys about the matter. A judge was incredulous, telling one of the assistant district attorneys, “But it is the district attorney's office affirmative obligation. It's not the police department who has the affirmative obligation. It's the district attorney. That's who the courts look to. That's who the community looks to, to make sure all of that information constitutionally required is provided to the defense.”
Harris claimed that her staffers didn’t tell her about the matter for several months.
The Wall Street Journal reported in June that years earlier, her aides had sent her a memo urging her to adopt a policy of disclosing police misconduct to defense attorneys to safeguard the right to a fair trial. Police unions, however, were opposed to the policy, and Harris failed to act on it until after the 2010 scandal.
Had she chosen otherwise, she would not have woken up to this San Francisco Chronicle story: “Kamala Harris’ office violated defendants’ rights by hiding damaging information about a police drug lab technician and was indifferent to demands that it account for its failings, a judge declared Thursday … In a scathing ruling, the judge concluded that prosecutors had failed to fulfill their constitutional duty to tell defense attorneys about problems surrounding Deborah Madden, the now-retired technician at the heart of the cocaine-skimming scandal that led police to shut down the drug analysis section of their crime lab.”
Meanwhile, Jeff Adachi, then head of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, declared at the time, “Anytime I've asked the district attorney for a meeting, I've been told the district attorney is out of town or not available. We need a district attorney who will give this the attention it deserves.”
Harris failed the disclosure-of-misconduct test.
The Corrupt-Prosecutors Test
For years, R. Scott Moxley, an indefatigable alt-weekly reporter, has covered police and prosecutorial misconduct for OC Weekly, a beat that never left him short for material, and that absolutely exploded in 2014, when Harris was attorney general. As he summarized it, “Sheriff’s deputies had spent years running unconstitutional jailhouse scams against pretrial inmates to secretly secure prosecutorial victories at trials. In return, prosecutors under then–District Attorney Tony Rackauckas looked the other way when deputies hid, doctored or destroyed exculpatory evidence from defendants; repeatedly committed perjury; and disobeyed lawfully issued court orders. Tens of thousands of pages of records inside the Orange County Superior Court, as well as at the California Court of Appeal, prove beyond a reasonable doubt each element of what became known nationally as the jailhouse-informant scandal.”