liz crotty

Liz Crotty, born and raised in Manhattan, is a former Manhattan prosecutor under Robert Morgenthau and founded her own criminal defense firm twelve years ago. She is also the only candidate who doesn’t self-identify as a progressive or decarceral prosecutor. Instead, Crotty frames herself as the moderate candidate and the best candidate based on her experience as a practitioner on both sides of the aisle. 

Her experience as a practitioner was evident in her plan for “day one” actions if elected as Manhattan DA. She criticized practices under Cy Vance that we as practitioners agree are problematic, such as unscrutinized certificates of readiness for trial, automatic challenges to a doctor’s finding that the accused is unfit to stand trial, and orders of protection used against the accused as a “sword, not a shield”. At the same time, Crotty was surprisingly unaware of several of the Manhattan DA’s most problematic practices. Crotty said that she had never heard of the list of police officers with credibility issues, even though it was widely covered by the media and has gained momentum citywide. She thought that waivers of appeal were rare when they are required for almost all felony pleas; she did not believe that consecutive sentencing was ever used; and she did not think that Vance’s office still prosecuted simple drug possession. 

Crotty believes that a prosecutor does not contribute to racism in the criminal punishment system. She blames racism on the police that make arrests. Her view is misguided and ignorant, since racial disparities pervade all stages of criminal prosecution, including requests for cash bail/pretrial detention or sentencing. She failed to acknowledge that it is the DA’s role to  decline to prosecute cases that they believe are the result of racist policing. She reduces well-documented structural problems with the NYPD to a few “bad apples,” and stated that she believes “it’s a little unfair what’s happened to the police, you know, these are people and these are jobs and there’s all different kinds of people doing these jobs, just like prosecutors, just like defense attorneys, just like anyone, there’s really good ones and then there’s really bad ones and I think you have to root out the bad ones. But to say all police do misconduct and every case has police misconduct, I think is a little bit false.” 

Not only did Crotty appear out of touch in a way that belied her resume, but she also appeared to be the candidate most comfortable with business as usual. She would continue to use the ineffective conviction integrity unit, which many other candidates and community groups have characterized as a sham. 

Crotty is direct, blunt, and not masquerading as a reformer or progressive prosecutor. We expect that, should Crotty be elected as the next Manhattan DA, she would, at best, maintain the status quo or even create policies and practices falling below the already low standards set by Vance, and would continue to perpetuate harm on low-income Black and brown individuals and communities. 

Defunding the DA and Prosecutorial Accountability

 

Crotty’s experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney was evident in this section. She didn’t skip a beat when rattling off the specific changes she would make on day one to hold her office accountable. She is critical of prosecutors improperly using their discretion, (“just because you can doesn’t mean you should,”) and cited prosecutors seeking orders of protection even where there is no benefit to public safety. She acknowledged that “bad felonies don’t make good misdemeanors” and emphasized that some cases just needed to be dismissed. 

Despite this understanding, Crotty would not relinquish any of the prosecutor’s power or reduce its budget. She is opposed to prosecutors acting as legislators and deciding what laws they will and will not enforce.  Crotty would continue to prosecute all felonies and would not pledge to even end “broken windows” prosecutions, which disproportionately target Black and brown New Yorkers. She does not support dismantling the Special Narcotics Prosecutor. 

 

Rubric Category: Most harmful approach: will continue to wield power and unfettered scope of the office with little change from current practice

 

Combating Systemic Racism

 

When asked to elaborate on the ways that the Manhattan DA contributes to systemic racism, Crotty refuted the premise of the question and instead insisted that racial disparity comes from policing. Distinctly, she presented no plan to combat racism within the NYPD and very much excused many of its problematic practices. Besides this willful blindness to the DA’s role in perpetuating racism, the only plan she presented includes flipping the script to “treat all defendants like they’re white and rich.” History has taught us that this colorblind approach is hollow and ineffective to account for the systemic racism that exists in this city and country. Additionally, Crotty seems to believe that racism in the criminal justice system can be explained away by an accused’s socioeconomic status, but still believes in cash bail and prosecuting “broken windows” offenses. 

Crotty stated that she would largely move away from using no-knock warrants, but she would not commit to ending the practice. She would continue to use peremptory challenges, a legal tactic  often used by prosecutors to exclude jurors based on race, to prevent an accused person from being tried by a jury of their peers. 

 

Rubric Category: Most harmful approach: will continue to wield power and unfettered scope of the office with little change from current practice

Policing the Police

policing the police logo

Although Crotty also said that police are responsible for racial disparities in the criminal punishment system, she maintains that like any other profession, policing just consists of some “bad apples.” She does not support defunding the police and in fact made arguments that their salaries should be increased, stating that half of NYPD are people of color. This was merely one example of Crotty’s simplistic view of racism. 

Crotty will not oppose the use of the over-inclusive and racist gang database. She was the only candidate who had never heard of the “bad cop” list. She will continue to rely on officers on this list “depending on the case.” While Crotty took issue with the practices of the “Vandal Squad,” she went on to endorse the resurrection of the widely criticized “Anti Crime” squad. Crotty believes that “a lot of gun problems can be solved with anti-crime coming back. “I know that there [were] problems with anti-crime and their roles within the community, but the anti-crime was tasked with getting guns off the street and I think we’ve seen a surge in gun violence since this has happened.”  

 

Rubric Category: Most harmful approach: will continue to wield power and unfettered scope of the office with little change from current practice

Abolishing Cash Bail and Pretrial Detention

Crotty identifies as an “old school bail person” and does not see the problem with monetary bail or requiring an accused person buy their freedom. She supported the reactionary rollbacks of bail reform which were based on scare tactics and exaggerations by the NYPD, current DAs, and right-wing media. She thinks that cash bail should be set if someone is a flight risk. Most troublingly, she suggested that a DA should consider more than just the likelihood of returning to court in determining bail, a view that disregards the constitutional presumption of innocence: “The biggest question in bail reform that people aren’t asking, the first lexicon, is did they do it?” This shocking statement from a current defense attorney made clear that Vance’s current practice of seeking cash bail whenever he can would continue under Crotty’s leadership. 

 

Rubric Category: Most harmful approach: will continue to wield power and unfettered scope of the office with little change from current practice

Ending the Criminalization of Poverty, Mental Illness, and Substance Use

Crotty largely supports the status quo for prosecuting people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders. She would prevent access to ATI based on the severity of the charges, a person’s criminal record, or their likelihood to recidivate. She would still require a guilty plea for access to ATI courts. However, she does believe that a clinical assessment for access to ATI should be done independently of the DA’s office, a notable change from current practice. 

When asked to evaluate drug court, Crotty said that the problem with drug court is that too many people in drug court do not have a drug problem. However, she ignored the extremely long mandates, “one size fits all” approach to treatment, lack of effective programs, and jail time to respond to relapse, etc. Her incomprehension was disappointing given her experience as a practitioner and who has dealt with addiction in her own family. 

Even when she disagrees with current Manhattan DA practices, Crotty is resistant to give up prosecutorial discretion or enact change. For example, she believes that “relapsing is a part of the recovery process,” but she would not commit to a decarceral response in instances of relapse.

 

Rubric Category: Most harmful approach: will continue to wield power and unfettered scope of the office with little change from current practice

 

Support for Decarceral Outcomes and Sentencing

If Crotty were DA, there might be minor improvements in cases where people are accused of resisting arrest, domestic violence offenses, and bump ups, cases that could be charged as felonies or misdemeanors. For example, she expressed support for prosecutors listening to uncooperative complaining witnesses in domestic violence cases and respecting their agency when determining whether they would proceed with a case.  Crotty also said that she would not prosecute resisting arrest or obstruction of governmental administration. She explained her rationale, “Minus the 1%, that is always a clear sign to me that nothing has occurred when it is resisting arrest and OGA or resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.” In an op-ed, she criticized the “Right of Way” law that authorizes criminal penalties for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians without requiring proof of criminal intent. 

Here too, Crotty prefers to retain discretion rather than institute office-wide policies that support decarceral outcomes. She would not support a sentencing cap. She generally does not believe the role of the prosecutor is to change legislation.   

 

Rubric Category: Most harmful approach: will continue to wield power and unfettered scope of the office with little change from current practice

 

Commitment to the Presumption of Innocence

 

Crotty is not committed to the presumption of innocence. She thinks that bail should be about guilt or innocence “at the first instance,” meaning that she doesn’t value the constitutional rights that protect people from being deprived of their liberty. When asked what she would do to reduce the impact that an open criminal case has on people’s lives, she answered, “listen, the police had made the arrest.” Her answer shows a failure to understand that arrests say little about the strength of the government’s case and often result from the over-policing of Black and brown communities. 

She agreed to consent to jury trials on B misdemeanors but would not go further by supporting a change in the law to make jury trials on B misdemeanors the usual practice in New York City. Crotty wants to wash her hands of responsibility in supporting changes that are beyond the DA’s direct control, even where the DA could be influential.     

It does seem like Crotty has learned some lessons from COVID that would be beneficial to people accused of crimes. For example, she is interested in exploring the idea of having a courtroom open in the evenings.

 

Rubric Category: Most harmful approach: will continue to wield power and unfettered scope of the office with little change from current practice

Correcting Past Harms

 

Crotty’s plan for correcting past harms is to retain current structures and possibly make them a little better. For example, she would continue to use Vance’s conviction integrity unit, which many of the other candidates criticized as being ineffective, and she would tweak it by increasing defense attorney participation. But she has no interest in taking bold stances or in giving up any power. When asked whether her office would concede appeals where there were major errors, she declined. Instead, she would look at the individual case and ask, “Would this be in the best interest of the office / is this the kind of law we want to make?” While we are doubtful that prosecutors can ever really know what communities want and need, it is troubling that Crotty’s tendency is to not even ask that question. 

Crotty only committed to office-wide policies when she didn’t think the issue would come up very often. She committed to not opposing appellate challenges to prosecutors improperly striking potential jurors based on race and to ending the practice of requiring waivers of appeals for pleas, but in the same breath, she opined that both issues rarely arise (which we know to be false). 

 

Rubric Category: Most harmful approach: will continue to wield power and unfettered scope of the office with little change from current practice