“It’s a big answer to the bottleneck we have,” he said.
LaWall also defended her legacy, and that of Neely, but said she’s not offended by the focus on reform in the county attorney’s office she has run for so long.
“What people forget about me is that I’ve been a big reformer for the last 24 years. I created drug court. I created drug treatment alternatives to prison,” she said, listening additional programs.
“Unless you’re constantly in renewal, then things fall apart,” LaWall added. “I think it’s great that everyone is out there talking about reform.”
Conover acknowledged some of the efforts LaWall has made, but in LaWall’s first campaign, she wasn’t much of a reformer. The key issues in her campaign against Gonzales were plea bargains and juvenile prosecution. In both cases, LaWall was the hardliner, and Gonzales was the liberal.
Neely set quotas for the number of cases prosecutors should take to trial, which resulted in a higher trial rate, 14% of cases, than in any other Arizona county. LaWall approved of the practice as necessary to judge an attorney’s practice, and Gonzales said the county should plea bargain more and conserve its resources for high-priority cases.
In 1996, Arizona voters were also considering the juvenile justice initiative, Prop. 102, that would require county attorneys to prosecute as an adult any juvenile age 15-17 charged with committing first-degree murder or four other major crimes. LaWall supported it; Gonzales opposed it.