A fellow Democrat running against Fairfax County’s top prosecutor in the primary is attacking the incumbent for criticizing the party’s criminal justice policies while seeking to strike a potential juror in a 2005 trial because the man’s wife was a prominent Democrat.
Raymond F. Morrogh (D), then chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney, told a judge he didn’t want the man on the jury because the man’s wife was a member of the Democratic National Committee, according to a transcript of jury selection. The judge ultimately rejected the motion.
“I see where his wife is on the Democratic National Committee, and that’s basically the reason I struck him,” Morrogh said according to the transcript. “I think their policies towards criminal justice seem to be kind of left-handed, and that’s the only reason I voted no.”
The campaign of Steve Descano, a former federal prosecutor, highlighted the exchange in a statement on Tuesday, saying its time to demand “new thinking and real reform” from the Fairfax County prosecutor’s office. Descano has tried to position himself as a progressive alternative to Morrogh, who is in his third term.
Morrogh was first elected commonwealth attorney in 2007 and has been a Democrat since the 1980s, his campaign said. He has been a prosecutor for more than 30 years.
“Someone with that type of outdated thinking won’t bring the reform we need and shouldn’t be leading our criminal justice system,” Descano said in a statement. “Someone who would strike a Democrat for just being a Democrat can’t be trusted to fight for all of our community.”
Kyle Shivers, campaign manager for Morrogh, said it was the practice of the commonwealth’s attorney Morrogh served under to sometimes try to strike jurors for their political affiliations. Shivers said Morrogh has stopped the practice since becoming the county’s main prosecutor.
“Our opponent is attempting to mislead Democrats throughout Fairfax County by picking one case out of the hundred thousand Ray has handled,” Shivers said. “Ray has a record of making very progressive reforms since he was elected.”
Morrogh attempted to strike the juror during the trial of a man accused of getting into a gun battle with a police officer following a robbery in 2005. The man, who was facing a charge of attempted capital murder of a police officer, ultimately pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
A public defender challenged Morrogh’s attempt to strike the juror on the grounds that Morrogh made the motion because the man was African American. Morrogh insisted he wanted to strike the juror because of his wife’s politics.
“The Democratic National Committee generally has a — one of their platforms is that the criminal justice system is not fair in this country for a variety of reasons,” Morrogh said, according to the transcript. “Whether they’re right or wrong, I just don’t want people who may be exposed to that kind of thinking on the jury.”
Descano has called for expanding alternatives to prosecution for drug addicts, the mentally ill and teens. Morrogh has highlighted his experience and efforts to help establish drug and veterans courts in Fairfax County. The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 11.