Letters to the Editor: George Gascón needs to reexamine old murder convictions right now

L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón, Maurice Hastings and a woman stand next to each other.
L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón speaks at a news conference Friday about the release of Maurice Hastings, center, after 38 years in prison due to an erroneous conviction.
(J. Emilio Flores / Associated Press)

To the editor: What the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has done to Maurice Hastings, the Black man whose murder conviction and life sentence were vacated after nearly 40 years behind bars, is an absolute outrage. And The Times buried the lead: the fact that Hastings requested DNA testing on the key evidence more than 20 years ago, but the DA’s office denied the request.

Sorry, what?

Dist. Atty. George Gascón is quoted as saying, “What has happened to Mr. Hastings is a terrible injustice,” and that “the justice system is not perfect, and when we learn of new evidence which causes us to lose confidence in a conviction, it is our obligation to act swiftly.”

This is far less than “not perfect.” This is an abject tragedy.

It is not remotely reasonable to deny DNA testing for anyone, no less a Black man who was convicted of a crime in the late 1980s, given that, according to new data from the National Registry of Exonerations, Black people are seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than whites.


Please get a team of investigative journalists to find out why the DA’s office did precisely nothing for this man for the past two decades. Then please find out why that office is not methodically testing all evidence for exonerating DNA. The DA’s office should have no confidence in these old murder cases, especially if a Black man was convicted.

Gascón has a clear responsibility to reinvestigate every case where exonerating DNA may exist, and The Times should make sure that he does.

Julie Cantor, Santa Monica

The writer is an attorney and a physician.


To the editor: I was horrified reading about Hastings serving 38 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Such a tragic miscarriage of justice could have ended in 2000, but the district attorney’s office denied his request for DNA testing of new evidence.

This denial resulted in an innocent man spending 22 more years behind bars.

Justice deserves accountability. Yet, The Times’ article made no mention of the responsible parties or the rationale for the denial.


Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s father, Gil Garcetti, was the district attorney in 2000. I trust that a follow-up interview is forthcoming.

Robert Goldberg, Seal Beach