Longtime Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick will be joined by his two opponents Thursday evening at a forum that aims to engage residents on the importance of the county’s top lawyer.
At least 10 community groups worked to put on the event, where Fitzpatrick, Democrat Chuck Keller, and Conservative Gary Lavine will take written questions from the audience. Director of the CNY chapter of the NYCLU Yusuf Abdul-Qadir will moderate, and wants it to be a civil exchange.
"We're really encouraging members of the audience and candidates as well to focus on the issues and not on personalities. We're not interested in having personal attacks. This is really a discussion about the power of the office."
Nicole Triplett is policy council with the NYCLU, and says DA's offices have traditionally operated within black boxes, unlike other elected officials.
"District attorneys have so many discretionary decision points that can tremendously affect the trajectory of individual cases, ranging from the type of plea offer you receive, to whether or not you receive bail and what amount, to whether or not you are funneled into an alternative to incarceration track."
Starting January first, DA’s will be legally obligated to follow a series of criminal reforms enacted by the state. That includes less reliance on incarceration and criminalization that Triplett says have contributed to poverty and segregation. Other topics might include police accountability, marijuana legalization, and the opioid crisis. Thursday's forum will be held from 6 to 8 pm at Freedom Commons, 450 Burt Street in Syracuse.