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Alan Jackson, a winner with jurors, takes his case to be D.A. to voters

May 09, 2012|By Robert Greene
  • Alan Jackson is running to become Los Angeles County district attorney in the June 5 election.
Alan Jackson is running to become Los Angeles County district attorney… (Los Angeles Times )

Alan Jackson is, at 46, the youngest of the six candidates for Los Angeles County district attorney. But he’s tried his share of high-profile cases, including the successful prosecution of music icon Phil Spector, and that in turn has helped to elevate his profile. For name recognition he can’t match Los Angeles City Atty.  Carmen Trutanich, and some voters may still confuse him with the country music star of the same name, but Jackson has worked hard to distinguish himself from the rest of the pack.

Jackson has demonstrated his quite rational belief that Trutanich is the man to beat. Of all the candidates, Jackson was most vocal about attacking Trutanich for breaking his pledge to complete two terms as city attorney before seeking another office. And Jackson brought a court complaint -- successfully -- to invalidate Trutanich's ballot designation as Los Angeles chief prosecutor. Neither issue goes to the substance of the district attorney job, but they garnered the widest and most high-profile coverage in the race to date. He has been designated in some news accounts as Trutanich's chief rival. If the goal is to push Trutanich into a November runoff by denying him more than 50% of the vote, Jackson is apparently hoping that his tactics make him one of the final two.

The campaign this week reaches an important and, for the candidates, a nerve-wracking point. Sample ballots are now in the mail, and the earliest of early voters can apply for, receive, mark and return their ballots. Most voters who vote by mail will do so next week, if the past is any guide, and somewhere between 40% and 60% of voting is expected to occur through the mailbox instead of the ballot box. It’s called the June 5 election because that’s the day the polls are open. But voting for Los Angeles County district attorney is already well underway.

VIDEO: The D.A. candidates on realignment and the death penalty

The Times' editorial board has met with the candidates and is deliberating in preparation for making an endorsement.  This blog post and others like it are an attempt to share some of our thinking with our readers. We have previously editorialized on several of the issues we consider important -- three strikes, the death penalty, public integrity, juvenile justice and realignment.

Jackson was born in Indiana, then raised by his mother in Texas. Like many of his counterparts in the race, he was the first in his family to attend college, but he didn’t do it right away. He said he didn’t think of himself as much of a student and instead joined the Air Force after high school. But he said his eyes weren’t good enough for him to become a pilot, so when it was time to re-up he instead enrolled at a small college in Texas, then moved to the University of Texas -- where he discovered he was a pretty good student after all.

For law school he chose Pepperdine in Malibu, and when then-Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti opened up some hiring in February 1995, he secured a spot. He tried felonies in Torrance and juvenile cases in Eastlake and Inglewood. Then Santa Monica.

A second-chair spot prosecuting a ritual satanic killer got him some notice in the office, and by 1999 he was prosecuting gang cases in Compton. In 2004 he moved to the major crimes section and helped to try and convict Michael Goodwin for the murder of racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife. It was his first truly high-profile case. He handled the preliminary hearing of serial killer Chester Turner  (fellow candidate Bobby Grace handled the trial and won the conviction), and the preliminary hearing of Juan Manuel Alvarez in an abandoned suicide attempt that led to the 2005 derailment of a Metrolink train and the deaths of 11 people. Then came the Spector case, and a hung jury; then a retrial and the conviction.

The cases, especially Spector, gave him a healthy amount of TV exposure. He seemed to like it.

Jackson said he spoke to Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley in 2010 to determine whether Cooley planned to run for a fourth term, and to seek his blessing to run if the job were to open up. That was before Trutanich said he would run and before Cooley’s top deputy, Jackie Lacey, also filed.

To defend against Trutanich, he signed on with a man who helped steer the city attorney to victory in 2009: political consultant John Thomas. Now Jackson is -- kind of, sort of -- running to the right as the nonpartisan race’s only high-profile Republican. (Trutanich was formerly registered as a Republican; John Breault III is a Republican but has run an extremely low-key campaign.)

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