Alexis King, Candidate for District Attorney, District 1
1.What role can the DA’s office play in protecting our environment? In what ways will you use the office to battle the climate crisis and the development of Rocky Flats?
The climate crisis is the existential challenge of our generation, and we must combat it at every organizational level of government. In Colorado’s statutory scheme, policy, and practice, the Attorney General’s office has the primary role in prosecuting environmental crimes, not local District Attorneys. Nonetheless, my office will, wherever possible, prioritize both the local prosecution of environmental crimes where the DA has either concurrent or original jurisdiction (the legal authority to intervene and prosecute environmental crimes) as well as create and maintain a close partnership with those other agencies, including the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Attorney General’s office, to support and enhance cooperation in these investigations. Finally, my policy team will pursue every opportunity to enhance our ability to prosecute bad actors who intentionally or recklessly damage the environment of our community.
2. How have the policies of the military and local law enforcement impacted the violence in our local communities?
The perception of ever-increasing militarization of our local law enforcement agencies contributes to a tense or non-existent relationship
between our police and some communities, particularly those that are marginalized, under-resourced, and underprivileged. The answer is multi-fold – first, we must be intentional about recruitment into our police agencies, so that diversity and inclusion become foremost values and so that our officers better reflect not just the communities they serve, but those they arrest and detain. Second, we must be transparent, at every level of the criminal justice system, about our policies, practices and ethical obligations – at every decision point, from the deployment of patrol resources to arrest decisions, and use that data to inform better, more equitable practices that are not blindly ignorant to issues of implicit or explicit bias. Third, we must continue a return to neighborhood policing and to the development of strong ties between officers and those they serve. Having trained law enforcement recruits for years, it is essential that we have frank conversations not just about the letter of the law but also about their role as community servants. As the district attorney, I will work closely with law enforcement to pursue these objectives.
3. What important steps will you take to improve equality and safety in the workplace for all marginalized people?
In 2016, I was the first voice to push the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council to consider how the prosecution community failed to address labor trafficking and the prosecution of those exploiting their workers. San Diego has an excellent model of pairing local prosecutors with the Department of Labor in order to detect and respond to wage theft and other forms of labor trafficking. This is the type of model I will bring to our community as well as offering employers the opportunity to learn and develop reporting processes to create safe and healthy environments that address exploitation, bias-motivated crimes, criminal harassment, and sexual assault. Though much workplace misconduct is a matter of civil rather than criminal remedies, workplace misconduct unfairly infringes upon the economic rights and advancement of those from marginalized communities and my office will reach out to workers, and particularly those in vulnerable populations, like the undocumented, under-resourced, or marginalized, to educate them on available resources and reporting options.
4. Would you recommend changes in the Juvenile Justice System in the 1st Judicial district, and if so, what sorts of changes? In general, how should the juvenile system differ from the adult justice system?
As a deputy district attorney in the 1st JD, I specialized in juvenile work for four years, leading a team of attorneys in collaboration with investigators, community partners, and law enforcement, as well as the juvenile mental health court. I represented the DA’s Office on the Jefferson County Juvenile Review Board and the Jefferson County Juvenile Justice Sub-Committee. I spearheaded prosecution alternatives for kids caught sexting to keep them out of the court system as well as a pilot project to keep 10, 11, and 12-year-olds out of detention facilities. As District Attorney, I will create a broad pre-file diversion program for kids who commit low risk and low-level offenses so that they never enter the courthouse, and so that we can address the issues that brought them to the attention of law enforcement without criminalizing them and harming their future. Right now, “juvenile” means anyone from the age of 10 to 17-years-old. Our office will minimize the prosecution of people under the age of 15 and expand the prosecution alternatives for young people up to the age of 24. We must look to well-documented science and understand that our young people need support rather than criminalization to become stable members of our communities.
5. What are your views on gun control, and the red flag law recently implemented in Colorado? Does it need changes, or to be repealed entirely?
Gun control is a critical issue. Having personally prosecuted a school shooting in our community and multiple cases of gun violence, I know first hand the devastation of gun violence on our communities. I support Colorado’s red flag law, as well as our statutes that prioritize the removal of guns from domestic violence offenders. It is too early to know exactly what issues may arise from the red flag law’s implementation, though I will advocate for every policy effort that enhances our ability to prevent gun violence and remove weapons from those that are not safe to have them. The District Attorney’s direct role under the red flag law will generally come to fruition if and when the removal results in violence. That said, my office will actively support legitimate efforts to remove weapons under red flag orders and in cases of relinquishment of firearms under our domestic violence laws, as well as prioritize the enforcement of crimes involving firearms.
6. What is the role of the DA’s office regarding:
Housing is a District Attorney issue. Those who are unhoused face often insurmountable odds in achieving the stability that would prevent their own victimization and as well as offenses against others. My office will seek collaboration with community agencies and nonprofits to ensure a multidisciplinary response to housing issues and in recognition that housing and economic stability increases public safety and prevents victimization. For example, Jefferson County’s Adult Mental Health Court has access to housing for participants because housing is such an essential need. The District Attorney’s office has led this effort before and will lead it again.
b. Mental Illness
The role of the District Attorney with respect to mental illness is to divert, wherever possible, those with mental illness from the criminal justice system. Our healthcare system is woefully under-equipped to adequately address this healthcare issue. I support the development and expansion of highly successful co-responder programs to place mental health professionals with police responders, so that folks who can safely be managed with a healthcare response are. For those who commit criminal offenses, I also support the expansion of adult pre-file diversion so that we keep folks for whom we can safely intervene with a healthcare response “off paper” and minimize the collateral consequences of involvement with the criminal justice system. Where community safety demands criminal justice system involvement, I support the expansion of our mental health diversion courts and increased resources for our probation departments and prisons to adequately respond to and treat and manage mental health issues with dignity and respect, thereby preventing re-offense. Additionally, part of the rise in our population of justice-involved women is due to unresolved trauma. We must respond with adequate resources for crime victims and survivors who experience trauma and trauma-related mental health impacts to prevent future victimization and system involvement.
c. Substance use
Like mental health issues, the role of the District Attorney with respect to addiction and substance misuse is to divert, wherever possible, those with this healthcare issue from the criminal justice system. Our healthcare system is woefully under-equipped to adequately address this issue, and an evidence-based, data-informed response is essential. Our resources should be prioritized there, rather than the criminal justice system. Where community safety demands criminal justice system involvement, I support the expansion of our substance misuse courts and increased resources for our probation departments and prisons to adequately respond to and treat substance use issues with dignity and respect, thereby preventing re-offense.
7. Is sentencing reform needed? If so, how much can be accomplished on the judicial district level, and what will require statewide action?
Sentences are set by the legislature. Certainly, sentencing reform is a critical issue – there are crimes now at the felony level that should be at the misdemeanor level, or perhaps not crimes at all. There are mandatory sentences that should be eliminated. My policy team will actively support those legislative efforts. At the judicial district level, where statutory sentence enhancements are at the discretion of the DA, the use
of these enhancements will be substantially curtailed, completely tracked, and transparent, and my leadership team will set the tone and a clear policy regarding what should be the rarity of their use. There is a balance to bringing about culture change in a prosecutor’s office (addressing implicit bias and data collection), developing new programs (reducing incarceration), and advocating for state or national initiatives (the voice of reform). I plan to lead by doing at both the state and local levels. The DA community can be susceptible to peer pressure and if one jurisdiction has success with a diversion model or efforts around sentencing, others are less hesitant to follow suit. Jeffco and Gilpin can and will be a model of responsible, transparent, and fiscally sound sentencing practices under my leadership.
8. What life experiences do you feel prepare you to support victims? How do you feel about conviction integrity units and are you willing to start one in District 1? Please speak to your managerial experience.
When I was eight years old I asked my parents to adopt my best friend because I knew she didn’t feel safe in her home. I have carried that experience throughout my life. After finishing college, I came home to Colorado and worked at T.E.S.S.A., a domestic violence and sexual assault non-profit organization charged with evaluating how different agencies impact the survivor safety. The study revealed that district attorneys were often the key decision-makers for survivors. I went to law school to work on behalf of survivors. I volunteered with Project Safeguard, Colorado’s Ending Violence Against Women Project, and the University of Denver’s Criminal Defense Clinic. My commitment to working on behalf of vulnerable people, particularly women and children, is what led me to become a Deputy District Attorney in Jefferson and Gilpin Counties. I am currently a Title IX staff attorney at Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center where I advocate for children in K-12 facing gender-based violence and harassment.
My office will have a conviction integrity unit that not only addresses the wrongfully convicted/innocent, but that will reexamine cases where the interests of justice no longer justify the initial sentence imposed. I support retroactive second look sentencing for people who have been incarcerated for decades more than their crimes, if committed now, would warrant or where such sentences would not now be imposed and where public safety is not compromised. Each case and each person is unique, and my office will not hesitate to address injustice or right wrongs both past and present.
I led the day to day operations of our District Attorney’s Juvenile unit for four years, mentoring young attorneys, managing support staff, reviewing staff performance, developing prosecution alternatives, working with community stakeholders, creating a forum for statewide cross-training, advancing legislation and responding to emergent situations while trying cases and leading the juvenile mental health court.
As the Human Trafficking Prosecutor, I led our District Attorney’s human trafficking team which included law enforcement, both local and federal,
the Juvenile Assessment Center, the Department of Human Services, and local non-profits. I represented the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, by gubernatorial appointment, on Colorado’s Human Trafficking Council which included stakeholders from across the state to advance our response to trafficking through strategic planning. I testified on legislative issues and trained law enforcement and community organizations on trafficking.
As a member of the Colorado Bar Association’s Executive Council, I am the Vice President of Region 2, which includes the First Judicial District. In that capacity, I facilitate communication between the local bar associations and the Bar. We monitor the implementation of our five-year strategic plan, review the efficacy of our programming, review bylaws and memoranda of understanding with other organizations, and oversee a $10 million budget.
9. Jefferson County is currently dealing with budget cuts, which has led to a decrease in jail beds, decreased funding for the DA’s office, and decreases in other areas of the county’s budget. What are your thoughts about how best to address the serious budget issues
facing the largest county in the first judicial district?
I grew up on the west side of Colorado Springs and I know the ugliness of Tabor and Gallagher. In our community, I will continue to support efforts
to de-Bruce and end the stranglehold of Gallagher and Tabor as I did with 1A. Regardless of funding, our District Attorney’s office is not following best practices regarding bond reform or prosecution alternatives to reduce the number of people in our jail. I will implement real bond reform in the manner I supported bond reform in Denver so that we are not over-incarcerating and harming those facing poverty, mental illness, and addiction. Moreover, we need more prosecution alternatives across the board, and I am proud of my track record of collaborating, creating, and launching successful programs in our community.
10. Do you support the death penalty? If not, would you work for reform in Colorado?
No. It should be (and will shortly be) repealed. If something derails that effort, I will join in renewed efforts to repeal the death penalty at the legislature. In any event, my office will not seek the death penalty. With the end of the death penalty in sight, the next question is the legitimacy of the crime of Felony Murder, where someone who did not intend to commit murder nevertheless commits a crime that results in someone’s death. A conviction for felony murder results in a sentence of life without parole. I will lead that conversation as your elected District Attorney.
11. What should the role of the DA’s office be regarding immigration?
I am committed to safe access to our courts for the undocumented population, and will work to ensure equal access to justice for undocumented victims of exploitation and crime. I am in communication with the immigration lawyers in our community to discuss the policies utilized by the Denver DA and will compare that to the policy recently rolled out by the Boulder DA and use those as a starting point to craft a new policy for the Jeffco/Gilpin office. All prosecutors should be educated about, and should thoughtfully consider, all impacts of criminal cases for those charged, including immigration consequences.
12. What is your position on private prisons? Does the DA’s office have a role, or potential role, regarding this issue?
It is inappropriate to profit from incarceration. I am opposed to private prisons. My focus will be to implement policies and programs that reduce overall incarceration, and thereby lessen the need for prison facility spaces. As a leader in the law enforcement community, I will participate in and pursue policies that eliminate private prisons in Colorado.
She, Her, Hers
Candidate for District Attorney – 1st