OC’s law enforcement oversight agency begins probe of DA Spitzer
The Orange County Office of Independent Review has begun an investigation of how Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer handled the decision whether to seek the death penalty against a double-murder defendant, the head of the office said Friday.
Sergio Perez, the head of the Office of Independent Review, which works for the Orange County Board of Supervisors, said he could not comment on when or who made the complaint about how Spitzer handled the meetings with prosecutors regarding the Jamon Buggs case. Spitzer was pushing for the death penalty, but then changed his mind and is now seeking life without the possibility of parole instead.
“We’re looking at the alleged statements made by the district attorney with regard to the criminal prosecution of Buggs,” Perez told City News Service.
Spitzer has come under fire for stating during the meetings with other prosecutors on the case that he asked about the race of Buggs’ ex-girlfriend, who is white, because he was concerned that the accused killer may have shot one of the victims, who is also white, by mistake.
Spitzer cited cross racial discrimination because it is one of the main reasons death penalty verdicts are overturned, but that is usually because a witness picks the wrong person out of a lineup due to racial biases.
Spitzer also said during the meetings that he knew of Black classmates in college who dated white women as a way of increasing their status. Buggs is Black.
Perez said his office was also looking at whether Spitzer violated Marsy’s Law, which Spitzer himself championed as a lawmaker. At least one Newport Beach investigator on the case complained in a letter to the presiding judge that when Spitzer walled off himself and the prosecutors in the case and assigned it to other prosecutors, it left the victims and police in the dark.
“This will be an independent, objective assessment of that from a neutral third party so that people can trust the government is doing the work the right way,” Perez said.
Spitzer noted that he was instrumental in reshaping Perez’s office when Spitzer was a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
“I am the one who originally insisted on expanding the Office of Independent’s oversight to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office,” Spitzer said. “Of course we will fully cooperate with any investigation. There is absolutely zero truth to the allegations.”