R.J. Larizza, the district attorney general for Volusia and three other districts, said he wanted to further reduce crime and provide services to help people with mental health or drug problems.
His challenger, longtime defender Don Dempsey, on the other hand, said there were a number of issues with the implementation of the Larizza goals.
Above all, Dempsey said he thinks the prosecutor's resources should be reallocated, using less energy to sentence people to long sentences for unscrupulous crimes.
The two will face off in the general election on Tuesday, November 3, with the winner holding office for the next four years. All registered voters in Volusia County can participate in this race.
In separate interviews with The West Volusia Beacon, the candidates outlined their platforms and explained why they are running.
The public prosecutor is responsible for all criminal prosecution in the 7th circuit. The prosecutor manages and manages the agency, including overseeing more than 200 employees.
Larizza said that during his tenure as prosecutor, crime declined each year during the 7th judicial district, which included Volusia, Flagler, Putnam, and St. Johns counties.
"We have been very successful in my 12 years as a prosecutor in crime reduction rates," said Larizza. "I want to continue this trend."
Dempsey, however, sees the need to reform criminal law. For example, he said, Larizza's office was too fast to impose long sentences, especially for first-time offenders and those convicted of minor or victimless crimes such as drug possession.
"Many people are sentenced to long terms," Dempsey said. "My complaint is not about law enforcement, but as soon as a case goes to the prosecutor."
According to Dempsey, prosecutors are under pressure to ask for longer terms, as this increases the prosecution's conviction rate. Prosecutors are also encouraged not to drop cases, such as cases of people going through the veterinary court, a diversion program to help veterans who are accused of relatively minor crimes.
"More people should take a break to avoid destroying their lives, especially first-time offenders," said Dempsey. "But prosecutors won't if they don't get their manager's approval, and that goes against their conviction rate statistics."
According to Dempsey, the change is up to the prosecutor, since judges are often bound by minimum obligation laws.
"The prosecutors basically have sole discretion," said Dempsey.
Dempsey wants different resource allocation. For example, to an economic crime office to investigate cases where the victims are older or business people rip off their partners.
But Larizza said there is a fraud division that commits economic crimes and he intends to keep them. He also said that his agency is training and working with local police departments to deal with such crimes.
Larizza didn't mind being tough on tough-nosed criminals, but he believes in being compassionate when appropriate, he said.
"Sometimes good people make bad decisions and sometimes the criminal justice system lets them down," he said.
However, Dempsey argues that the prosecutor could do more to reduce the sentences of some convicts, especially older inmates who have been detained much longer than they should have been.
"The prosecution needs some sort of second-look system to review cases and see if some rates can be lowered," Dempsey said.
Another focus of Larizza is the fight against domestic violence.
"One in four homicide murders is domestic and one of the most difficult to track," he said. “We work with domestic violence councils in every county and I cut funds from my budget to help them. I'm trying to get more government funding for them. "
According to Larizza, certain prosecutors are working with the councils to try to reduce cases of domestic violence with the ultimate goal of reducing the number of murders.
Dempsey did not address domestic violence in his interview. Rather, he focused on ways to reform the system and be more compassionate, especially towards first-time offenders and those serving long terms.
"It's not about crime. It's being re-prioritized," said Dempsey, "instead of spending resources on crime-free crime like minor drug-related offenses, you should spend more time and money on corporate crime and exploitation of older crimes that are real victims gives."
R.J. The 62-year-old Larizza was elected prosecutor for the first time in 2008. Prior to that, he worked in private practice in St. Augustine for six years after having worked as a prosecutor in Daytona Beach and St. Augustine for six and a half years.
He was a probation officer for 13 years before becoming a prosecutor.
Larizza lives in St. Johns County with his wife and two children and has five grandchildren.
Donald B. Dempsey Jr., 54, was a prosecutor for three years before opening a private law firm in DeLand that specialized in criminal defense 27 years ago.
He is married to District Judge Angela Dempsey, who has been put on civil proceedings so that there is no conflict with his candidacy. (She'll stay on the civil bench if he wins the election, said Don Dempsey.)
Don and Angela Dempsey have a 7-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter, and he has a 30-year-old son from a previous relationship. The Dempseys live near DeLand.
According to the Florida Law, the state attorney's office is to do the following: "The state attorney or attorney must appear before the district and district courts of the Seventh Judicial District and prosecute or defend any civil or criminal lawsuit, motion, or motion involving the state in the name of the state unless otherwise provided by law, we will seek justice by fairly and conscientiously representing the interests of the Seventh Judicial District and the State of Florida. ""
The prosecutor currently oversees 205 employees, including 78 lawyers, who perform this mission in the four districts of the 7th judicial district: Volusia, Flagler, Putnam, and St. Johns.
The firm's non-attorney employees include auxiliary staff, investigators and victim attorneys. The number of employees varies; The prosecution is currently under a hiring freeze due to the unknown budgetary impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The prosecutor's annual salary is $ 169,554 plus a government benefit package. The term of office is four years.
The race is biased. Both R.J. Larizza and Don Dempsey are registered Republicans; However, Dempsey chose to run without party affiliation or NPA.
"I think the criminal justice system should be impartial," said Dempsey. "I don't think it should be a partisan issue. Nobody likes crime."
Had both men decided to be Republicans, the election on Tuesday, August 18, would have been in a partisan area code open to all voters. However, since they are running with different party affiliations, the vote on the general election will be postponed Tuesday, November 3.
The entire district of Volusia is in the 7th district, so that all registered voters in the district of Volusia can vote in the race.