(CNSNews.com) – As California attorney general, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) blocked evidence that would have exonerated an innocent man on death row, fought to keep the cash bail system in place, and prosecuted more than 1,500 people for marijuana violations, among other things, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) said Wednesday at CNN’s Democratic presidential debate in Detroit, Mich.
“I want to bring the conversation back to the broken criminal justice system that is disproportionately negatively impacting black and brown people all across this country today. Senator Harris says she’s proud of her record and that she’ll be a prosecutor president, but I’m deeply concerned about this record. There are too many examples to cite, but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana,” Gabbard said.
Gabbard was referring to an interview Harris did with “The Breakfast Club,” a New York-based radio show, in February, where Harris was asked whether she ever smoked marijuana.
“I have, and I inhaled -- I did inhale. It was a long time ago. But, yes," the senator said at the time.
“She blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so. She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California, and she fought to keep cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way,” Gabbard said.
In response, Harris defended her record, saying that as attorney general of California, she “did the work of significantly reforming the criminal justice system of the state of 40 million people which became a national model for the work that needs to be done,” and she’s “proud of that work.”
“And I am proud of making a decision to not just give fancy speeches or be in a legislative body and give speeches on the floor but actually doing the work of being in the position to use the power that I had to reform a system that is badly in need of reform,” the senator said.
“That is why we created initiatives that were about re-entering former offenders and getting them counseling. It is why because I know that criminal justice system is so broken that I am an advocate for what we need to do to not only decriminalize but legalize marijuana in the United States,” she added.
“The bottom line is, Senator Harris, when you were in a position to make a difference and an impact in these people's lives, you did not, and worse yet, in the case of those who were on death row – innocent people - you actually blocked evidence from being revealed that would have freed them until you were forced to do so. There is no excuse for that, and the people who suffered under your reign as prosecutor, you owe them an apology,” Gabbard said.
Harris said throughout her entire career, she was “personally opposed to the death penalty, and that has never changed.”
“And I dare anybody who's in a position to make that decision to face the people I have faced to say I will not seek the death penalty. That is my background. That is my work. I am proud of it. I think you can judge people by when they are under fire, and it's not about some fancy opinion on a stage but when they're in the position to actually make the decision, what do they do. When I was in the position of having to decide whether or not to seek a death penalty on cases I prosecuted, I made a very difficult decision that was not popular to not seek the death penalty. History shows that, and I am proud of those decisions,” the senator said.