The Diaz case is one of a series of battles Harris’ prosecutors waged — in both the offices of San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general — to resist innocence claims, often using technical timeliness or jurisdictional arguments, lawyers and innocence advocates say.
…Whatever her involvement in the Diaz case and other innocence claims, actions by Harris’ offices — carried out in her name, by people working on her behalf — have left some voters and advocates distrustful. Criminal justice advocates are critical of her handling of wrongful conviction cases, in particular, saying her offices resisted at least five such claims despite compelling evidence of innocence.
…The following April, Diaz says, Harris’ office told him that, in fact, he must continue to register as a sexual offender — although by that time he had obtained a formal judgment of innocence — because he’d been released on parole before he filed the petition to vacate his conviction.
…Diaz said he believes Harris’ office was trying to intimidate him out of seeking compensation.
…Harris’ office continued to fight Diaz’s right to compensation for almost a year. Documents filed by Schwartzbach detail filings and arguments both the compensation board and the attorney general’s office used to try to block the claim.
In October 2014, more than two years after his conviction was vacated, Diaz was awarded $305,300 for his almost nine years in prison. The requirement to register as a sex offender was also eventually dropped.
…“The idea that some innocent person should have to labor under the branding of a sex offender for the rest of their lives because they didn’t meet the technical requirements, that’s just wrong,” Green said.
…Newly-elected attorneys general, Green said, often find a certain culture and set of practices in place in the offices when they take charge. “If you start to overturn convictions others obtained, it doesn’t make you popular with your staff,” he said.
…In the Maurice Caldwell case, Harris’ DA’s office filed for multiple extensions rather than responding to his innocence petition, causing Caldwell to spend an extra year in prison before he was exonerated.
…A judge declared in 2014 that false statements made by a prosecutor working for Harris about the fears of the only eyewitness against Jamal Trulove had likely prejudiced the jury.
…Harris’ office also contended that Larsen’s arguments were too late. “A federal habeas petition filed even one day late is untimely and must be dismissed,” the office said. After Larsen was released, Harris’ office successfully campaigned against compensation for the more than 13 years he was imprisoned.
Whether these incidents occurred because she is a poor administrator or because she was afraid to rock the boat (or -as is more likely- both) doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it happened on her watch and she is ultimately responsible.