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If District Attorney Kamala Harris can’t assuage critics who say she should seek the death penalty for an accused cop killer, the Bar Association of San Francisco will try to do it for her. The professional group is publicizing its support for the DA’s decision to seek life without parole in last month’s fatal shooting of Officer Isaac Espinoza. The DA has to avoid public comments that could prejudice jurors, BASF President Jon Streeter said in an interview Tuesday. “She’s basically trying to defend herself with one hand tied behind her back.” Streeter, a Keker & Van Nest partner, held a press conference Tuesday to announce a resolution that says Harris reasonably exercised her discretion. Prominent trial lawyers John Keker, of Keker & Van Nest, and Morrison & Foerster senior counsel James Brosnahan were at Streeter’s side. The resolution, passed by the group’s board, says factors such as the strength of the case, the prosecution’s deterrence value, and enforcement priorities can all play into prosecutors’ decisions. The group also broadly criticizes elected officials for politicizing the case and discourages Attorney General Bill Lockyer and U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan from stepping in. Their involvement would undermine Harris’ effectiveness and impinge on the autonomy of district attorneys statewide, the resolution says. The language notes that U.S. senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and more than 40 members of the state Legislature have urged capital punishment in the case. Brosnahan, a former federal prosecutor, said politically motivated “observations” are “unseemly,” but declined to name names. “We’re just talking generally here.” Later, he indicated his comment was not aimed at Feinstein, noting that she “is not running for election at the moment.” The bar association’s board passed the resolution 13-1 on May 12, with two board members abstaining and others absent, Streeter said. They considered arguments the local Police Officers Association made in a letter to Lockyer and an op-ed piece signed by Harris in the San Francisco Chronicle, though Harris and the POA’s executive director declined invitations to speak. Dissenter Steven Kaufhold, an Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld partner, said it’s good for elected officials to let the public know their position on the death penalty, in general or in specific circumstances. And, though Kaufhold says Harris has shown integrity with her consistent position, he thinks the death penalty is appropriate in some cases. “It’s not that I disrespect the judgment of the district attorney. I just disagree with it.”

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