How did you decide to run?
The people who came and suggested to me maybe I should think about this [said] could you live with yourself if "fill in the blank" was the chief law enforcement officer of the state of California? That's a pretty compelling argument. Some of them, without mentioning names, are a little scary.
That's why you should go into it. Anyone can go in when times are good and there's lots of money. But it's an even greater need for leadership and decision-making when times are tough.
Could you stand living in Sacramento?
Oh, no no no no. That's not how it works. Look out this window [he points down Spring Streetand laughs]: The Ronald Reagan State Building. That's where Steve Cooley's gonna be hanging out! I'm not going to Sacramento, in this age of faxes, e-mail, Twitter.
What's the next big challenge for law enforcement?
We've got to expand the infrastructure to keep up with the potential for forensic evidence, particularly in the areas of DNA and Internet technology. Electronic crimes are ever-expanding. Even though money's tight, you cannot let time march past you, because you'll never catch up.
Do you have a death penalty philosophy?
Yes. I support it.
What about the hundreds of inmates on California's death row?
It's unfortunate that California, because of a lot of factors -- the 9th Circuit [Court of Appeals] being one of them -- has been unable to execute the will of the jury. The Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez -- his prosecutor is dead and in his grave, and Richard Ramirez is still playing games on appeal. People like him, some other murderers -- these people merit the death penalty.
Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown decided not to defend Proposition 8 in federal court, even though voters passed it. Do you think that's within his purview?
I think that an attorney general who believes that the initiative process or the legislative process has resulted in a law that is unconstitutional [has the] prerogative to refuse to defend it. Prop. 14, which overturned the Rumford Fair Housing Act [which said Californians could not refuse to sell or rent to people based on their race] was ultimately thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court. Someone not defend[ing] a certain legislative or initiative action because their first duty is to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of California -- that's a higher obligation.
Have you thought about whether you would have done the same thing?
It's something that would bear a lot of further study, but I think there is a rational basis for what he's done.
In this office, you know you'll have cases like Blake's and Spector's. Celebrity cases go back to the 1920s here.
It is what it is. In this town there's going to be the celebrity factor -- victims in some cases, suspects in other cases. The basic rule: Don't change the rules because it's a celebrity case. Back to your basic policy manual. How would this case be handled but for a celebrity being involved?
And don't go out there and talk about it. Don't try to glom onto that person's celebrity. First of all, it's unethical. You're not supposed to talk about the facts of the case until they've been introduced in court.
Too many elected officials look at their job as nothing but a series of photo ops. I think that ultimately it catches up with them. The public wants you to just do your job. Don't go out there and grandstand because you're dealing with someone who was allegedly responsible for the death of Michael Jackson. It's not very classy. The public sees right through it.
How does the case against director Roman Polanski fit into that?
This is a person who fled the jurisdiction after being convicted, and the circle of justice has not been closed. So hopefully the process will work, he'll come back, the case will be resolved, and we'll move on. In a sense, he got a very reasonable, beyond reasonable, case settlement for what he did to that child. To get a low-grade felony of unlawful sexual intercourse -- he's a lucky man and he ought to take advantage of the benefits conferred on him. But act like he's the victim at this stage? Huh-uh. Whoopi Goldberg and the rest who have created a whole celebrity exemption for this person -- I think that they should be ashamed of themselves.
Did you see "Chinatown"?
I saw "Rosemary's Baby" too, but there are no exemptions because you happen to be a brilliant artist.
Do you ever watch, say, "Law and Order" and think, "We never do things like that!"
I watch very little television -- mostly the History Channel. Some of the [law dramas] are pretty accurate, though some of them, you go, "Boy, what part of the Constitution were they reading?"
firstname.lastname@example.org. This interview was edited and excerpted from a longer taped transcript. An archive of Morrison's interviews is online at latimes.com/pattasks.