McDonald resides in Birmingham and obtained her undergraduate degree from Alma College and law degree from Wayne State University. She was an Oakland County Circuit Court Judge from 2012-2019. McDonald has held positions with a number of professional and community groups.
REFORM OF BAIL SYSTEM
Across the country we are seeing calls for reform of the current bail system. Is the bail system in need of reform? If so, what would you suggest? If not, why?
Yes. Cash bail is a product of a racist, wealth-based criminal justice system. It inordinately affects women, poor people, and people of color who are less likely to be able to afford cash bail and risk losing their houses, jobs, and even families while awaiting trial. Meanwhile, wealthier people who commit the same crime are able to post cash bail and return to their jobs and families. If we ever hope to create a truly equal justice system, we need to end biased prosecutorial practices like cash bail.
SENTENCING DIVERSION PROGRAMS
Rather than jail time on some more minor offenses, we are witnessing the use of diversion programs. Do you agree with the movement for increasing use of these programs? For what types of crime would you support diversion programs rather than jail sentences? What limitations (types of crimes) would you not support for diversion programs rather than jail time?
Our current prosecutor refuses to participate in treatment courts or diversion programs, despite the availability of programs in Oakland County. As prosecutor, I will not only invest in veterans and treatment courts, but also establish new mental health courts to ensure that all Oakland County residents have access to treatment rather than funneling them into the criminal justice system. I will also establish first offender programs and diversionary programs for all nonviolent, low-level offenders so that they can receive the help and resources they need to avoid unnecessary incarceration and further run-ins with the justice system. By doing so, I will reduce crime, keep low-level offenders out of jail as much as possible, and provide defendants with the help they need to successfully reintegrate into society.
MARIJUANA CHARGE EXPUNGEMENT
With the legalization of recreational marijuana, would you support state legislation that would retroactively and automatically expunge charges of those charged in cases involving amounts of cannabis that are now legal? Why or why not?
Yes. The state of Michigan has allowed recreational marijuana, and individuals should no longer be penalized for something that has been made legal. As prosecutor, I will cease prosecution of new marijuana possession charges and immediately recommend the expungement of all past marijuana possession charges involving amounts of cannabis that are now legal.
CHANGING LAW CULTURE
Because some of the suggested changes to the prosecution system could be viewed as actually pushing change in the culture of law enforcement which may be more accustomed to a heavier-handed prosecution of crimes, does the county prosecutor need to meet with law enforcement leaders to explain a change in prosecutor philosophy to avoid blow back to policy changes? Likewise, should there be a meeting of minds with judges of the district and circuit court system?
Yes. In order for our justice system to work effectively in this transition to progressive criminal justice reform, it is essential that the prosecutor work together with policy makers, law enforcement officers and judges. Although the prosecutor has the most power to enact immediate criminal justice reform in Oakland County, we cannot hope to create a truly fair system without the involvement of all criminal justice stakeholders. If elected, I will work tirelessly to meet and collaborate with other community leaders to make these changes a reality for Oakland County.
In light of the increased sensitivity to racial and ethnic bias with recent events, would you recommend that implicit bias training be part of the ongoing professional training in the prosecutor's office? Please explain.
Absolutely. If we are ever to create a truly just system that treats all people equally under the law, the prosecutor must commit to properly training their employees. As prosecutor, I will not only require implicit bias training for all prosecutorial staff, but also work with local police departments and the attorney general’s office to ensure that all law enforcement officers in Oakland County receive necessary implicit bias training. As much as possible, I am also committed to creating an office that reflects the needs and demographics of the communities it prosecutes.
Should the prosecutor’s office automatically appoint an independent investigator in cases of officer-involved shootings and should the results of that investigation be made public?
I believe that all officer-involved shootings should be properly documented and released to the public, and that an independent investigator should be brought in when necessary. It is crucial that the prosecutor’s office remain fully transparent in all cases involving law enforcement so that – whether the officer is charged with a crime or not – community members have full access to all details of the case and are capable of understanding the decision reached by the prosecutor.
Is there a system of metrics or performance standards that county citizens can use to gauge the performance of an elected county prosecutor?
Although conviction rates and sentencing may provide some insight into prosecutorial performance, they cannot account for the complexities of sentencing on a case by case basis. Measuring performance in this way does not encourage just, fair sentencing that takes all facts into account, but instead puts pressure on offices to seek maximum sentences regardless of surrounding factors. Instead, we should rely on statistics that reflect crime rate and overall community safety, such as tracking recidivism rates and reducing prevalence of racial and social inequality. When using these metrics to evaluate performance, prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement officers are encouraged to fulfill their roles in a way that is best for the community as a whole, rather than for their respective careers or ratings.
WHY VOTE FOR YOU
What qualifies you for this position rather than your opponent?
Over the past twenty years, I have served Oakland County as a circuit court judge (2012-2019), assistant prosecutor (1999-2004), and private practice attorney (2004-2013). I have seen firsthand that our broken criminal justice system is failing Oakland County residents – especially poor people and people of color. Our current prosecutor has had twelve years to implement criminal justice reform in Oakland County, but has failed to do so. I stepped down from the bench in 2019 because we need a prosecutor who will actively work to end mass incarceration and implement progressive criminal justice reform that will create a fair system for all people. With my background as a judge, assistant prosecutor, and attorney, I am uniquely qualified to lead the prosecutor’s office in this pursuit with experience and understanding in all areas of the court.
Goetz resides in Lake Orion and obtained her undergraduate degree in criminal justice at Michigan State University and her law degree from Thomas Cooley Law School. She has been involved in various community groups.
REFORM OF BAIL SYSTEM
Our judges need every tool available to make bail decisions that fit the individual and the crime in order to make sure that the accused returns to court, and that the public and the accused are safe. This includes keeping cash bails in our system. Unfortunately, sometimes, money is the sole motivator, and risking the loss of same is one way to make sure a person returns to court. In New York, they tried no cash bonds with heavy use of tethers, and the result was an escalated crime rate, especially homicides. In Michigan, we have implemented Michigan indigent defense counsel being made available at the arraignment stage where bonds are set. They have the opportunity to meet with defendants before appearing on the record, and are making the right arguments to our judicial representatives to make sure that bonds are more appropriate for the defendant’s actual ability to pay them, while meeting the court’s bond obligations. Our citizens deserve better than just acting on some suggested policy without a closer review of the actual impact it will have on people. Therefore, every tool a judge can use to secure a defendant’s return should be utilized.
SENTENCING DIVERSION PROGRAMS
“Minor offenses” sounds innocuous. However, many “minor” offenses are correlated to other issues/crimes. This sounds good in sound bites. The reality is that a driving while license suspended could result in a major accident causing injury or death by someone who should not be driving on our roads (Remember the Red Wings). Possession of a drug may lead to thefts to pay for the habit, then home invasion with a weapon or homicide. We need to be incredibly careful of “minor offenses.” Having said that, I am extremely supportive of treatment courts. My husband and I believe these save lives. If a minor offense plus treatment court can save a life, a family, a future, we are so incredibly supportive. I am willing to consider reducing higher crimes one step if someone successfully completes these programs as they truly save lives and futures. That decision would be made on a case-by-case basis where the person chooses sobriety over addiction and crime.
MARIJUANA CHARGE EXPUNGEMENT
A prosecutor does not usually advocate/lobby for legislation. Primarily, we are charged with enforcement of laws as they currently exist. There are still limits on amounts of marijuana, amounts of THC in marijuana possessed, etc. However, I will support legislation as passed by our congressional leaders.
CHANGING LAW CULTURE
The prosecutor, AKA chief law enforcement officer, should always be in communication with law enforcement leaders. That includes changes in law. Prosecutors are not supposed to focus on blowback or not, as they fairly, and justly, apply the law. As a prosecutor, I will be meeting with various law enforcement, judges, community leaders, community groups, etc… to share with them how I see a law may be applied. In addition, I will implement a public integrity unit that will communicate with leaders and the public on how the office interprets changes in the law and court cases.
The current prosecutor, Jessica Cooper, implemented implicit bias training already. I will implement a zero-tolerance policy. No decisions (employment or charging through appeals) in my administration will be based upon any of these types of classifications in our society. Rather, I will hire based upon the best candidates available, and cases, other than ethnic intimidation charges, will be determined without any such considerations. People make good decisions, or bad ones (following the law, or not). Their actions and their impact on victims will determine charges and how cases are managed. Frankly, if sensitivity to race/religion/etc were the real consideration in public discussions and protests, we would be discussing why so many victims are minority groups, religions, races, etc, and not focus nearly as much on why certain groups of defendants find themselves in jail. Victims need our support after someone has harmed them. We should be focusing on victims even more.
There is already a system in place to review shootings. This has been there for quite some time, and I will honor those processes. I will consider every piece of evidence and believe in full transparency. Officers and the public both deserve that.
First and foremost, the performance standards of assistant prosecutors should focus on the ability of the prosecutor, their training, and their honesty. I support a mentor program where a new prosecutor can learn from the experience of more seasoned prosecutor. Each assistant prosecutor will be reviewed on a yearly basis to ensure that they are following the guidelines of the office, and to review areas we can continue to develop our assistant prosecutors to be the very best. Additional trainings and resources will be greatly expanded. Further, the public will not have to wait to express concerns, or provide additional information on various cases, as a public integrity unit will be implemented to facilitate communications. Unfortunately, lately, the media has been put in a position to try cases in their forum, often on emotional claims of grieving families or advocacy groups, without all the information. Most times, they do not yet have the full facts or evidence which leads to a skewed perception for their viewers. Cases will be decided on all of the facts and all of the evidence at hand, as it continues to be developed, and will not be tried through initial public opinion(s) or emotion(s). However, the media will be able to request information, and hopefully get better information for our community through the public integrity unit, especially regarding high profile cases where it is necessary to dispel fact from fiction as soon as we can while not influencing later litigation. In addition, assistant prosecutors in the various courtrooms will be able to verify basic information about cases for the media to help ensure accuracy of news reports. I understand that some cases are devastating for victims, families or law enforcement officers. I will work with the media, victims, families and law enforcement to improve fact checking and communications so long as it doesn’t interfere with everyone getting a fair trial later.
WHY VOTE FOR YOU
The best qualification is that I am running for you, to keep you safe. A lot of these “policies” or “proposed changes” sound good for a sound bite, or if you are pandering for a vote. However, they can be flat out dangerous if implemented. Enough is enough. I won’t do that. I have been a respected, practicing attorney for over 28 years. When you are arguing a case before a court, your word (your honesty) as an attorney means something. That, honesty, hard work and integrity is what I am promising you because you have worked hard for your businesses, careers, homes, families, and safety. I will surround myself with the best talent I can find and will continue to fight for victims and good law enforcement. As a child, I witnessed domestic violence firsthand. I saw my mother be abused, and I watched her break that cycle of violence out of love for my brother and I. She later remarried a man who genuinely loved her (without violence). She is my hero and set the example for us. I will be there for victims. We (law enforcement and prosecutors who will execute the cases with good arrests) want to help your family too. Here, in Oakland County, we live here for a reason. We expect to be safe in our homes, work, businesses and to keep our families safe. I will be there for good law enforcement that fights for you. Together, we will be even better. For additional information, readers may go to LinforProsecuter.com