Attorney Ben Schwartz interviews Kathy Jennings, candidate for Attorney General of the state of Delaware.
Hi, I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz,
Today we have a special guest, Kathy Jennings. I asked Kathy to come on video with us and let me interview her. Kathy is here because she’s running for Attorney General of the state of Delaware. Kathy is a good friend of mine. I’ve known her for many years, litigated cases against her and Kathy, I wanted to say thanks for coming on and let me interview you, it’s quite a pleasure. I’m going to run through a couple of questions, but before I do, I would like you to introduce yourself to the folks that are watching and tell them why you are running for the Attorney General of the state of Delaware.
Kathy: Thank you Ben. My name is Kathy Jennings. I have never run for office before, but I am running now because I want to make Delaware a safer place for all of us to live, work, and most importantly, to raise our children. I want a criminal justice system that is fair and equal to everyone, regardless of race, regardless of the size of our pocketbook and regardless of the place where we live. I want to give a helping hand to people suffering from addiction and not a prison cell. I am running for office because the Federal Administration in Washington, D.C. is threatening our hard-fought Constitutional and Civil Rights. As Attorney General, I will protect those rights strongly.
Ben: What is yours why? What is the reason that motivates you? Why are you running for Attorney General?
Kathy: I’m running for Attorney General because I believe that justice must be fair. I believe an experienced leader who has worked in the justice system, who has sought change successfully and who has supervised trial attorneys who work in the Attorney General’s office is in the best position to lead that office as we go forward to make the changes that need to be made in our state.
Ben: Kathy that answer sorta leads into my next question. One of the things that I feel very strongly about is that the Attorney General’s office is a law firm. Some of the finest, highest level trial lawyers in the state of Delaware are in that law firm. I know what it takes to be a leader of trial lawyers and it’s not easy. My question to you is, what makes you feel that you are qualified to be a leader of high-level trial lawyers? What gives you the confidence to lead that office?
Kathy: I have spent my career in the pursuit of Justice. I believe that in order to lead other people who are pursuing Justice, that leader must have walked-the-walk and worked in the trenches from the ground up to gain the trust and respect of those the Attorney General will be leading. I began my career in the Attorney General’s office and I tried misdemeanor cases, I was the second woman in the Criminal Division of the entire office. It was an all-male law enforcement world when I began. I worked my way up, I tried misdemeanors in the court of common pleas, I protected victims of domestic violence by taking those cases to trial. I tried rape cases; joined the first rape unit. I then tried homicide cases, including Delaware’s only serial killer. There is no case I would ask a prosecutor to try, that I have not myself tried. I think leadership begins with gaining respect within the office, that you can take the office in the direction you believe it needs to go in. People will follow you because they know that you’ve done that work.
Ben: Kathy if you are elected Attorney General, what changes, if any, do you plan to make?
Kathy: That is a broad question, Ben. There are so many things I would like to do, so let’s start inside the office. The first thing I would do is make sure that our hard-working prosecutors and other people in the office got out from behind their desks and into our communities and start listening to the people we serve to solve problems that are very grassroots level. We started that under the leadership of Attorney General Beau Biden with the crimes strategies unit and I want to broaden that to be a state-wide unit wherein each and every community in our state, we are in communication with the people we serve so we can help them directly. There are many aspects of the Criminal Justice System that I perceive to be and I know to be unfair to people of color, and also to people without means. For example, I want to change the bail system, because you shouldn’t sit in a prison cell awaiting trial because you are poor. We need to eliminate cash bail because it is a system that imprisons poor people before they are ever found by a court of law to be guilty. I want to stop the unjust stacking of minimum mandatory sentences so that years in jail matter more than individualized justice. I want to make sure that people who do go to prison have the necessary tools inside prison and come out of prison to become productive members of society. Right now, Delaware has a very high incarceration rate. Yet at the same time, we have a recidivism rate that is 75%. That means that everyone coming out of prison, 75% of those people, will be re-arrested for a serious crime within 3 years. That is unacceptable and I want to change a system that is broken.
Ben: Let me ask you a question, it is something that has gotten a lot of attention over the years. What is your position on the death penalty in Delaware?
Kathy: That’s a good question and a very important one for everyone in the state of Delaware and throughout our nation. I have struggled over the years with the issue of the death penalty as I am sure many people in this state have. There is the morality of whether to seek a death sentence and there is also whether a death penalty in our state has made us safer. Does it in fact act as a deterrent? There were times when as a prosecutor I tried capital cases, including the serial killer Steven Brian Pennell, who abducted, torched, and murdered 5 women. I investigated that case and I prosecuted that case. It was a capital case. I have also represented a man on death row, so I have seen very up close and personal the struggles that people have with the death penalty in a very real way. Most importantly, I have sat with the family members of victims of murder and seen them at the worst moment in their lives when they’ve lost a loved one near and dear to them. I have felt their pain, although I have not known the deep and agonizing pain that they endure. Having said that, I know ultimately, based on my experience with the death penalty, that it doesn’t work. We have had a death penalty in Delaware and it has not made us safer. It has not acted as a deterrent to crime and it has not been effective. For that reason, I am opposed to the death penalty. Right now we do not have a death penalty, as our Delaware Supreme Court has ruled that the former death penalty was unconstitutional. I will oppose efforts to bring it back should those efforts take place.
Ben: Well Kathy Jennings, it has been an honor to interview you today. I really appreciate you coming on our little blog and answering questions. Folks, I hope you have enjoyed watching this video. This is Kathy Jennings, again running for Attorney General of the state of Delaware. Thanks for watching!
Kathy: Thank you, Ben, I appreciate the time and thought you have put into this. I want to say to everyone out there, please vote. The primary is on September 6, 2018, which is a Thursday this year. The way we make a change is with the power of your vote. I hope I can count on your vote, but regardless, please vote, thank you.