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During a question-and-answer session in San Francisco Wednesday, Attorney General Bill Lockyer attempted to clarify the standard he would apply in deciding whether to step in to prosecute accused cop killer David Hill. Lockyer is reviewing District Attorney Kamala Harris’ decision to seek life without parole rather than the death penalty. Lockyer said the timing of Harris’ decision — three days after the shooting death of Officer Isaac Espinoza — raised a flag. But the AG also said that requests to review charging decisions are routine, and he couldn’t recall finding an abuse of discretion in his five years in office. “It’s a very high standard,” Lockyer said. Lockyer was asked to review the decision by the local Police Officers Association. During his remarks Wednesday at a lunch honoring the state Supreme Court justices, Lockyer mentioned he planned on meeting Espinoza’s widow later in the afternoon, a meeting he said she requested. Lockyer said that in determining if a DA has abused his or her discretion, his office looks at whether a charge is made after a thorough and complete investigation, and considers the sufficiency of the evidence as well as the probability of conviction. So far it appears that Harris’ office took a look at the facts, he said. But, “we haven’t completed our review to see if it was sufficiently thorough.” The speed with which Harris announced her decision raises a legitimate question about whether the DA based it on philosophy or facts, Lockyer said. He noted that Harris — who in her campaign said she was opposed to the death penalty and would not seek it — hadn’t been in office long and was probably still pulling her staff together when Espinoza was killed. Lockyer speculated that may have affected the timing of Harris’ response. In the past, Harris has stated that she had “reviewed the evidence in this case and have made a principled decision as well,” though her office has lately been emphasizing that Harris studied the facts. Lockyer, asking rhetorically if a decision based on philosophy would qualify as abusive, said, “I don’t have the answer to that.” Keker & Van Nest partner and Bar Association of San Francisco President Jon Streeter, who recently sponsored a resolution from BASF supporting Harris’ decision, asked a follow-up question: What if a DA takes philosophy as well as facts into account? “I don’t view that as an abuse of discretion if it’s a decision based on the evidence,” Lockyer replied. “I would suggest if there’s adequate review of the facts � then that would satisfy our very high standard.” Of course, Lockyer isn’t the only one looking over Harris’ shoulder. Northern District U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan also is reportedly exploring charges against Hill. Ryan’s office might want to dovetail prosecution of Hill with a gang case that’s already in federal court: the prosecution of alleged Westmob gang members. San Francisco police allege Hill was also a Westmob member. Defense attorneys involved with the ongoing federal Westmob case aren’t happy that Hill’s case is getting so much attention from Lockyer and other politicians, including Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, who have both called for the death penalty. “The innuendo and taint has slid down and permeated our case,” said Gail Shifman, who represents defendant David George. “We’re concerned about our clients and our ability to get a fair trial.” Shifman said that if Hill’s case stays in state court it will be easier for her and the other defense attorneys to overcome the negative effects of politicians’ comments. Reporter Jeff Chorney contributed to this story.

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