Know Where Pima County Attorney Candidates Stand
In August, Pima County voters will choose a new county attorney: one of the most powerful elected positions in Arizona’s criminal legal system. It will be the first time Pima County has a new county attorney in more than two decades.
County attorneys are the chief prosecutor. They set the policies and procedures that decide who goes to prison and for how long.
In a three-way Democratic primary with no Republican challenger, the race for Pima County Attorney will be decided on August 4.
Laura Conover, Jonathan Mosher, and Mark Diebolt Jr. are all running to replace long-time county attorney Barbara LaWall.
LaWall leaves a legacy of tough-on-crime mentality that sent a staggering number of people to prison each year. Pima County sends more people to prison than any other county besides Maricopa County. In 2017, 2,079 people who went to prison in Arizona were prosecuted by the Pima County Attorney’s Office.
LaWall was a long-standing obstacle to achieving bipartisan criminal justice reform at the state Legislature. In 2019, she convinced Gov. Ducey to veto a bill that would have made the justice system more fair despite overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats. LaWall also declined to bring charges against a Sheriff’s deputy who was caught on video tackling a 15-year-old boy with no arms and legs and brutally shoving another teenager’s face into a wall.
To turn the culture of the Pima County Attorney’s Office around, voters can choose a county attorney who will invest in people, not prisons.
To help voters better understand candidate’s policy platforms, the ACLU Smart Justice Campaign sent a questionnaire to all three candidates.
We also think it critical for voters to be aware of two troubling instances of misconduct in Mosher and Diebolt's pasts as detailed in this opinion editorial from ACLU of Arizona criminal justice staff attorney Jared Keenan. Mosher was found to have made a false and misleading statement to the jury in a murder trial leading the Court of Appeals to overturn a man's conviction. Diebolt was reprimanded by the Pima County Attorney's Office for withholding crucial evidence in a murder case. We're bringing these cases to the attention of voters because it points to a systemic problem within the criminal legal system: it is notoriously difficult to hold prosecutors accountable for misconduct. And it is equally difficult for the public to find out about it.
It is important that voters do as much research as they can and make an informed decision by August 4.
Candidate questionnaires can be read in full at the following links:
Mark Diebolt Jr.: Did not return questionnaire.
The candidates were asked what immediate change they’d make to Arizona’s criminal legal system if elected. Laura Conover said she’d begin by deflecting simple drug possession cases straight to treatment and use the money saved to build a financial crimes unit.
Jonathan Mosher proposed a series of reforms including expanding drug diversion programs and implementing a community advisory panel.
Both candidates said they would not seek the death penalty.
On the issue of cash bail, Conover wrote “cash bail is done under my administration. My prosecutors will argue dangerousness and/or flight risk. 90% of the time, they should be arguing for specific conditions to mitigate concerns.”
Mosher committed to directing prosecutors to stop seeking cash bail for the following circumstances: any misdemeanor cases that do not involve a public safety risk, felony cases where the only charge is simple possession of drugs for personal use, and any felony cases in which the arrestee’s criminal history and current charges do not indicate that they pose a significant public safety risk.
The ACLU of Arizona asked the candidates if they’d commit to assigning special, independent prosecutors to investigate and prosecute cases involving police violence against civilians.
Laura Conover said, “I would like my prosecutors to be able to exit the building and consult with outside attorneys when they suspect serious error, malfeasance, etc.…actual prosecutions must be assigned outside the office. We need neutrality and independence that we don’t have now.”
Jonathan Mosher said, “our reviews of police use of deadly force cases will continue to be conducted by a specially trained team of prosecutors.”
The ACLU of Arizona does not endorse or oppose candidates. We strongly encourage voters to read the full candidate questionnaires closely, attend public events featuring the candidates, and cast an informed vote on August 4. Voters can request an early ballot and check other voter registration information at: https://www.recorder.pima.gov/BallotByMail