Joe Biden, in responding during last week’s debate to Kamala Harris’s hard-hitting attack over his expression of pride in working with racist Senators to curb the busing of school children, said:
I was a public defender. I didn’t become a prosecutor.
Many viewers may have wondered what this biographical fact had to do with the debate over race. Was Biden saying that defending criminals, rather than prosecuting them, is evidence of being pro-Black? Was he saying that it’s racist to be a prosecutor?
I hope not.
The main thing Biden was doing, I think, was sending a shot across Harris’s bow. Though many who watched the debate may not know it, Harris was a prosecutor and, more importantly, a “regressive” prosecutor who drew criticism from activists.
In a New York Times op-ed, a left-wing California law professor wrote:
Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reforms as a district attorney and then the state’s attorney general, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent. Most troubling, Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.
According to the same professor, Harris opposed a bill requiring her office to investigate shootings by police officers. She also refused to support statewide standards regulating the use of body cameras by police officers.
Then, there’s the case of Kenneth Cooper. He’s an African-American convicted of murdering four people in 1983. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times makes a strong case that Cooper is innocent.
As California’s chief prosecutor, Harris refused to allow the use of DNA testing in Cooper’s case. Moreover, according to Kristof, she “showed no interest in the case.”
What does candidate Harris have to say about this? She says she “feels awful.”
In the next debate, it will be the job of Joe Biden and Harris’s other rivals to make her feel even worse.
BY THE WAY: Biden said during the debate that he left a good law firm to become a public defender. This statement is true. The law firm in question was William Prickett’s firm, now known as Prickett, Jones & Elliott. Biden clerked there before becoming a public defender.
I got to know William Prickett in the early 1990s while litigating a complex case in which he was involved. Prickett was a leading light in the Wilmington bar and his firm was, indeed, a good one.
Prickett was a Republican and, according to Wikipedia, Biden thought of himself as one, as well. The Republicans tried to recruit him but, again according to Wikipedia, he resisted because of his distaste for Richard Nixon.
Biden became a Democrat instead. The rest is history, except for the part that’s still being written.