Common Ground: Democrat Justin Fairfax Talks Solutions for COVID, Criminal Justice and Police Reform

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Live from Virginia Thursday morning on The John Fredericks Show –  weekdays on WNTW AM 820/ FM 92.7 – Richmond, WJFN FM 100.5 – Central Virginia, WMPH AM 1010 / FM 100.1 / FM 96.9 (7-9 PM) Hampton Roads, WBRG AM 1050 / FM 105.1 – Lynchburg/Roanoke and Weekdays 6-10 am and 24/7 Stream –  host Fredericks welcomed Democratic State Senator and Mayoral nominee for 2021, Justin Fairfax to the show.

During the show, Fairfax discussed his objectives for the current session and the top pieces of legislation that they will be discussing.

Fredericks: Joining us now Lieutenant Governor Democrat Justin Fairfax, full disclosure who has also announced he will be a 2021 candidate for Governor. We predicted that Justin Fairfax is going to be the 2021 Democratic nominee for governor, and he is with us now.

Fairfax: Good morning John. Great to be with you as always. Hello to all your listeners and to all Virginians. Wonderful to be with you.

Fredericks: OK. We have a lot to talk about today. Let’s start with the state Senate you are presiding over unlike the House, the state Senate has decided under the Godfather Dick Saslaw the Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw the Democrat from Fairfax to stay in session in person. Have media coverage there. They are at the science museum. There is plenty of social distancing and masks. The House though decided to leave and go electronic. Why did you guys decide to stay?

Fairfax: We are again as you mentioned at the science museum. We were there back in April and an earlier reconvened session and I’m over the Senate as I normally do as lieutenant governor. And we found in the way that we did it back in April. As you mentioned there is plenty of social distancing. We all have our masks on and we are washing our hands and sanitizing.

And absorbing all the precautions that you need to preserve. And we have the space to do it safely. We are being very efficient. We’re getting the people’s business done. We are dealing with critical issues now for the Commonwealth around the budget. Dealing with the economic difficulties that our country is facing. But Virginia is doing a much better job at handling this then other states are with the COVID-19 pandemic. And the ongoing efforts there. I think we’ve been very effective there with our response.

And of course with criminal justice reform and policing reform. This is really a very urgent issue. We’ve passed landmark legislation just the other day at the committee. And I look forward to coming to the Senate. And I’m ready and able as you know John for the last two years on critical issues including Medicaid expansion. Gun violence prevention. Women’s reproductive health care. I’ve cast some really consequential tiebreaking votes. And I’m ready to do so on policing and criminal justice reform if it comes to that.

Fredericks: Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, you mention justice reform. What are the top pieces of legislation that you are favoring that you would like to see passed in this special session on justice reform?

Fairfax: Absolutely. First of all John some of the really key items that were passed out of committee that I believe will be signed into law by Governor Northam. One will be banning chokeholds which we saw in Minneapolis. George Floyd with an officer with a knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds and killed him in cold blood in front of the world. And that sparked so much of the change now that we’ve seen worldwide. So that is critical that we do that throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Banning chokeholds. Banning no-knock warrants. That’s how Breonna Taylor was killed in Kentucky. And of course, tracking officers who abused unjustified uses of force. Excessive force. Making sure they can be de-certified and not simply moved from law enforcement agency to law enforcement agency.

I should say that there is a lot of support of course from the community and activists but also from law enforcement. I have met with law enforcement personally. We talked through a lot about these issues. They understand that here in Virginia they want to uphold the highest standards and want to make sure that we are not having really bad officers that make it more difficult and ruin the reputation that so many good officers and some of the good departments.

It’s critical that we make these reforms that are transparent. And I think that we’ve also got to go even further than just those policing reforms. We’ve got to reform our criminal justice system here in Virginia. Senator Joe Morrissey is carrying a very consequential bill around sentencing reform in Virginia which will allow defendants to opt for a jury trial.

But also to have a judge sentence them. Right now juries do the sentencing phase recommendations in Virginia. We are one of the only six states that do that. It usually results in harsher sentences for people. And presents an inequity in our system. We are looking forward to that bill coming to the floor. Senator Louis Lucas again carrying some police reforms. We are very supportive of those.

And once we get done with this we will look at other things. I think we should abolish the death penalty in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I think we need what is called John, conviction integrity units. These are units that have been started in states and cities around the country and what they have found is that there are numerous people who have been wrongfully accused.

Wrongfully convicted. Many who have spent decades in prison only to find out that they were actually innocent of the charges and should never have been accused, convicted, and prosecuted in the first place. For instance in Philadelphia, you have about a dozen people who have been exonerated and who were falsely accused and falsely convicted.

So I’m really pushing heavily for that. There are other reforms that we need to put in place. But we’ve got to be focused on justice and fairness. And Senator Mamie Locke made a powerful speech yesterday on the floor of the Senate talking about the need for justice and fairness. And I’m going to be a champion for that.

Fredericks: I just want to point out to our audience that what’s happening now, when you talk about criminal justice reform people immediately go to the extremes and they are thinking about what’s going on in Fairfax right now with Commonwealths Attorney Descano there where they are not prosecuting people there for indecent exposure. They go to extremes.

Nothing that you mentioned here is extreme. In fact, I back all of it. I’m the Trump Delegation Chairman in Virginia. I can’t believe in today’s day and age that Virginia still has a jury determining sentencing. That’s why you have a judicial system. That’s why you have a judge. They have to take more broader view.

Also, a judge is made aware of things a jury isn’t. So I am 100 percent in favor of that. Senator Bill Stanley, one of the most conservative Senators you are going to find in a southside Republican. He’s in favor of that. I’ve been in favor of abolishing the death penalty forever because Justin, I’m pro-life. Either you are pro-life or not. I don’t see how you can make a distinction. I’m just not in favor of it. And I’ve been in favor of abolishing that forever. And I’m also in favor of your integrity.

Fairfax: The conviction integrity unit.

Fredericks: The conviction integrity unit. Because look if you Michael Flynn you are in favor of that. OK? This works on both sides. If you are Ted Stevens you are in favor of this. So many have been convicted with wrongful evidence. And so why anybody would be opposed to that I don’t know why. I don’t know why you would be opposed to that at all. So I favor all of those.

Let’s get back to reforming blue. Policing reform. You want to ban chokeholds. I think you’ll probably get a majority of people that saw the George Floyd thing. That kind of makes sense. There was also an incident in New York City or Staten Island where somebody had stolen cigarettes. Those have to go. What was the other thing you mentioned?

Fairfax: I also mentioned banning what I called are no-knock warrants. These are warrants that are often executed on a home against a suspected offender. Usually at night. And so it’s police breaking down someone’s door without announcing themselves. And that often leads to very violent bouts or situations that can and should be avoided.

And Breonna Taylor is the most recent example of a tragedy that happened when that goes wrong. She was an innocent EMT who is working the COVID-19 pandemic trying to help us all get through this in Louisville, Kentucky. And yet, police do a no-knock warrant at her house. End up firing shots that killed her. And there is still an injustice ongoing on there.

Nobody has truly been held accountable for that. And that we believe has to stop. It puts obviously people and citizens at danger and risk. And it also puts police in danger and risk. That has to change. We talk about de-certification procedures and enhancing them so that if an officer again has substantiated to abuse of excessive force that there is an investigation into excessive force.

They can’t simply move from city to city and county to county and do that same kind of policing in the next community. And then of course it would track that statewide creating a database that we think is really important. Civilian review boards that have the appropriate power of authority to help a community investigate these types of issues when they happen. Excessive use of force.

Create transparency and trust in the community. Then we talk about what’s called which Marcus-David Peters Alert which is when someone is having a mental health issue that we’re sending mental health professionals to respond rather than responding solely with guns. And we see the tragedy that happened when that occurs. So these again John as you mentioned, there is so much common ground here.

Fredericks: There’s total common ground. Total.

Listen to the full interview here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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