This is an archive of a past election.
See for current information.
LWVLeague of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Santa Clara County, CA June 6, 2006 Election
Smart Voter

Karyn Sinunu
Answers Questions

Candidate for
District Attorney; County of Santa Clara


Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).

Questions & Answers

1. What experience and training would you bring to this office?

Currently, as the top prosecutor to the District Attorney, I supervise 188 attorneys and all 90 DA detectives. And in Mr. Kennedy's absence, I am the acting district attorney. I believe that Mr. Kennedy has entrusted me with this position and endorses my candidacy to succeed him, in large part, because I am a self-starter. I set high standards, work hard to reach them and try to inspire others to do the same.

For example, when the unsolved homicide of a little girl from 1982 came to my attention years later, I reviewed the case history and saw flaws throughout the investigation. Most errors and omissions came down to failures to communicate and follow up; individuals in the system were not working together. So I brought together representatives from police departments, the medical community, social services, victim/witness services and the county coroner to form a child abuse task force. We worked collaboratively to create a best-practices guide to child abuse investigation. Eventually, I persuaded all 13 Police Chiefs and the Sheriff to sign on to it. I am proud to have contributed the Santa Clara County Child Abuse Protocol to the community. This is the first protocol of its kind in California.

When California enacted laws against hate crimes, I was asked to supervise their prosecution. Seeing that there was no guide for prosecutors on how to try those cases, I wrote the one that is used statewide. And when the Victim's Bill of Rights passed in 1994, there was no compendium on the subject, so I created the Victims' Rights Handbook, also used statewide.

More recently, I invigorated the District Attorney's Cold Case unit and Innocence Project to take full advantage of recent breakthroughs in DNA technology to find the truth and to solve crimes.

As the chief assistant, I chair the weekly District Attorney management meetings, setting the agenda to improve office procedures, effectiveness and morale. I have sat on the death penalty and 3-strikes committees, where the ultimate decisions are made.

In the past I have supervised the homicide, sexual assault, domestic violence, narcotics, hate crimes, and officer-involved cases, making charging, strategy and trial tactics decisions.

When I first moved into administration in 1994, I reformed office hiring and promotion practices by raising standards and requirements, and by increasing diversity. Since then I have extensive personnel management experience, including confidential and sensitive investigations into alleged misconduct. My goal is to do best for the community by educating my staff and disciplining them when necessary.

As the office media coordinator for many years, I increased public awareness of the workings of this office, within the limits of the law prohibiting comment on personnel issues or criminal investigations. I am known to be forthright and honest.

A career prosecutor, with 20 years of service, I tried 50 jury trials, including a special circumstances-double murder. I am honored to have been awarded the Napoleon Menard Trial Advocacy Award. Three of my cases were published because they made significant changes in the law.

As a member of the O'Connor Hospital Bioethics Committee, I was privileged to contribute my thoughts on issues facing patients and their physicians in their most private and fundamentally important choices.

I volunteer my time and labor with Habitat for Humanity and Rotary International, because I am committed to the betterment of my community and believe in public service.

2. What changes do you think need to be made in the way this office operates?

The office has come under media scrutiny lately, and I welcome it. In order to maintain both the highest ethical standards and effective prosecutions, we must continually educate our attorneys and listen to criticism from wherever it comes. However, as the people's elected chief law enforcement officer, the District Attorney alone is responsible for the operation of her offices. I accept that responsibility and promise to strive for the highest professional standards in the office.

Emphasize Ethics and Professionalism:

To highlight the preeminence of ethics and professionalism as first principles of the District Attorney, I will create the position of Ethics and Training Officer. The Officer will advise front-line trial attorneys on questions of law and ethics as they arise in trial.

Emphasize Commitment to Truth and Fairness:

I have already instituted many changes in attorney hiring, evaluation and promotion to emphasize professionalism and ethical prosecution. I will not alter my commitment to fairness, I but will continue to look and listen for ways to improve.

Increase Openness and Accountability:

The office and the community will benefit from increased openness. I will convene the District Attorney's Advisory Forum, at which diverse community leaders and I will meet quarterly in a frank exchange of ideas and opinions.

3. Do you think that the budget for this office should be increased or decreased and how should this be done?

In an era of high demand and scarce resources for government dollars, we are all required to use our ingenuity to increase effectiveness with less. Our office needs more resources, and I will continue to create opportunities for collaborations that save money. One very important source is grant funds: state and federal dollars are available to supplement the DA's budget. As I have always done, I will continue to pursue all outside sources.

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League. 

Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).

Candidate Page || Feedback to Candidate || This Contest
SmartVoter Home (Ballot Lookup) || About Smart Voter

Created from information supplied by the candidate: May 31, 2006 14:24
Smart Voter <>
Copyright © League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
The League of Women Voters neither supports nor opposes candidates for public office or political parties.