Republican Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley will face Shani Curry Mitchell next week, a Democrat who would be the second African American woman ever elected to a district attorney’s office in New York State.
Mitchell, a career prosecutor and former defense lawyer who got her start working under Georgia’s first African American district attorney, Paul Howard, is a Rochester native running with the support of the Working Families Party and Shaun King’s Real Justice PAC. She was also, until very recently, a prosecutor working under Doorley. Her experience with the criminal justice system is particularly personal: In 2002, while working as a prosecutor in Atlanta, her sister was murdered. Flying back and forth between New York and Georgia, Mitchell sat through the whole trial.
Fed up with Doorley’s tough-on-crime tactics—the Republican is a critic of discovery reform, ending cash bail, and legalizing marijuana—Mitchell quit her job last year. Campaigning on a platform of ending the “over-prosecution” of the poor and people of color, she says she will stop prosecuting marijuana cases and seeking cash bail.
If she defeats her old boss next week , she will join a wave of new progressive prosecutors, including Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner, Boston’s Rachael Rollins, and St. Louis’s Wesley Bell, seeking to upend a half century of retrograde criminal justice policy.(Excerpted from an article by Ross Barkan, The Nation, August 2019)