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Barbara LaWall reflects on 24 years as Pima County Attorney

Posted at 10:20 PM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 00:20:21-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — FIRST WOMAN ELECTED AS COUNTY ATTORNEY

"I never anticipated the fact that the community would think of me differently because I was a woman."

Outgoing Pima County Attorney, Barbara LaWall, said she never believed gender to be an issue when she was first elected in 1996.

"Very honestly, I was very surprised when everybody was remarking on the fact that a woman had won this particular seat."

In fact, until then, Pima County had never elected a woman to serve as County Attorney before.

LAWALL'S LEGACY

LaWall parts with the position she served for more than two decades.

"Now, we have a panoply of rights for victims that probably is one of the very best in the entire nation."

She said she's proud of programs that started or were improved during her tenure: juvenile crime programs, drug rehab programs, and victims rights programs.

CHANGING TIMES IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Criminal justice was very different in 1996, especially how it prosecuted crimes like driving under influence, LaWall recalled.

"When I first came into the office it wasn't dealt with as seriously, now it's very, very clear to everybody that you cannot drive impaired, you will be arrested and you will be prosecuted and if you do it repeatedly, you're going to prison."

JANUARY 8TH SHOOTING

The January 8th shooting presented a challenge to her tenure as County Attorney.

"That was probably the most shocking, horrifying day of my entire life, let alone the time that I've been the County Attorney."

Jared Loughner was prosecuted on federal charges in that shooting.

LaWall said she wishes she could've seen a ​change how state law treats criminals like him, in Arizona, where they can be designated as 'restored' and allowed to return to society.

"If he ever becomes 'restorable' then he's going to serve whatever prison term he would've serve for those murders that he committed. In the State of Arizona, that does not exist."

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

She said the killing of George Floyd and nationwide protests about criminal justice reform did have some impact on prosecuting officer involved cases in Pima County.

"I think we gave greater consideration and more thought to decisions we had to make after that but it didn't change the way in which those decisions were made.

We still examine what the law is and what the facts are in this particular case."

LaWall said the crime rate was high before she was first elected, low or steady while she served and fearful it could rise again.

"You'll see the pendulum swing back the other way if a lot of the criminal justice reform changes a lot of what goes on."

HER SUCCESSOR

On the subject of her successor, LaWall said she has spoken to Laura Conover.

"I think she's about to have her eyes wide-open."

She stopped short of offering her opinion on Conover's approach to prosecution.

"She's got her own philosophy, her own policies and she's going to be quite different than Barbara LaWall, we'll just leave it at that."

LaWall said she'll take some time off then look forward to visiting family across the country after the pandemic.