SO GOES THE NATION: Talking Criminal Justice Reform With Julie Gunnigle, Democratic Candidate for Maricopa County Attorney

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The criminal system in Maricopa County, Arizona is missing the Justice.  It’s the fourth largest county in the nation, and the eighth largest incarcerator IN THE WORLD.  The County Attorney’s office has been infamous for decades for overcharging, systemic bias, and flat-out corruption.

Helping us get Set For Sentencing this week is Julie Gunnigle.  She’s a democrat running for County Attorney as a common-sense reformer.  She is fearless in her assertion that she will never prosecute women or their doctors for abortion.  Her opponent would enforce “trigger” laws on the books from the civil war era.  She promises to increase diversion programs, regulate overcharging, give line prosecutors more discretion to do justice, and make other needed reforms to reduce mass incarceration in AZ.


  • Changing the culture of the historically corrupt, ethically challenged, Office of the Maricopa County Attorney;
  • Giving discretion back to line attorneys to fulfill their obligation to do justice;
  • Fixing the fact that Maricopa County is the 8th largest incarcerator in the world;
  • Proven, data-driven, approaches to reduce mass-incarceration at low, or no cost to taxpayers;
  • Reigning in the (over) charging power of the prosecutor that dates back at least to the time of Rick Romley (including the story of how Rick Romley tried to send a sixteen year old boy to adult prison for 30 years for pointing an unloaded gun at neighborhood bullies);
  • Instituting new policies that would restrict a prosecutor’s ability to alleged draconian enhancements that result in long, mandatory prison terms;
  • The importance of clearing the backlog of marijuana expungements by making expungement universal & automatic;
  • Combatting disparate racial outcomes in Maricopa County;
  • Goals for meaningful police reform;
  • Promoting diversity within the office, which is currently seriously lacking.


For a deeper dive into systemic racism, click here to listen to last week’s incredible talk with Jelani Jefferson-Exum, Dean of the Detroit Mercy School of Law.

To support Julie Gunnigle’s campain, CLICK HERE.

We talked about a terrible example from the Rick Romley era of gross overcharging of an early client of mine, Jefferson Stackhouse, a 16-year-old boy who pointed an unloaded, antique, shotgun at some neighborhood bullies.  They charged Jeff as an adult and tried to put him in prison for decades.  It was a sickening example of the unfettered charging power and inhumane treatment that is still commonplace for this office. Talking to Julie Gunnigle brought back a flood of bad memories about this historically horrible office:

Click here to watch a riveting 60 Minutes story about Jeff’s case.

Click here to read, “The Maximum Security Adolescent” a NYT Sunday Magazine article about Jeff’s case.

A great example of a County Attorney model that involves transparency around racial disparties and data-driven reform, from, as always, BERMAN’S SENTENCING BLOG!

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