‘I have to hold them accountable’
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS | LEAH BEVERLY
She’s one of the youngest prosecutors in the Clark County District Attorney’s Office, and 30-year-old Leah Beverly is also incredibly productive: She has prosecuted an astounding 1,000 cases and counting since 2012, including 20 felony jury trials.
A native of San Antonio, Texas, Beverly graduated summa cum laude with a degree in political science from Spelman College, and went on to complete law school at the prestigious University of Georgia.
Several of Beverly’s cases have gained national media attention — including securing one of the first felony convictions in Nevada for the synthetic drug Spice, and the widely-publicized evidentiary hearing for the State of Nevada vs. O.J. Simpson. Now, Beverly can be seen on the second season of “Las Vegas Law,” which airs on Investigation Discovery. Las Vegas Black Image Magazine sat down for a one-on-one conversation with this rising legal star.
We understand that you traveled a lot as a young child?
Yes, I went to high school in San Antonio, Texas — and actually my family also lived in South Africa from the time I was 12 until I was 15. I started high school in South Africa at the American International School, then we moved to San Antonio.
Tell us about your television show, “Las Vegas Law.”
“Las Vegas Law” had six episodes for our first season and now we are filming the second on Investigation Discovery. How this all came to be was that the producers for the show contacted District Attorney Steve Wolfson and said they wanted to do a show about the cases we have in the District Attorney’s Office. So, I wouldn’t say it’s just a documentary or a reality show — but I think it’s best described as a little bit of both. The producers follow one of our particular cases and follow the investigative interviews for a trial. The cameras follow us doing closing arguments and follow us on phone calls with victims and sentencing. Basically, it tracks the cases in our offices. The show tells the story about a particular case and what we go through to prosecute.
Do you find that your age is a hindrance as a prosecutor?
For a while, I was actually the youngest DA in our office. I started working in the DA’s office right after I graduated from law school, when I was 25 years of age. So now I am 30 — and I have never seen my age as a hindrance. I had people say, “Oh, you are so young to be a District Attorney.” I really let my work ethic speak for itself. There is nothing that can be said because I am a hard worker and I am prepared at all times. So, I haven’t see age as an issue in my work. As a woman — a black woman — you always have to work a little bit harder. I like to work and work hard.
Criminal justice reform was a big issue during the presidential campaign. Do you think reform will actually happen under a Trump administration?
One of the things that I hate is that Trump is trying to reinstate “stop-and-frisk.” This is really a serious problem, mainly because it specifically affects black people. As a District Attorney I prosecute people based on their crimes — I don’t look at their race or their socioeconomic status. I prosecute based on the crime they did. I hope that the stop-and-frisk method does not come to fruition. I think it will create a really big problem with our justice system. If the stop-and-frisk method is brought back, we will see a lot of illegal stops and a lot of people being arrested inappropriately — and this is certainly a concern.
What do you say about the recent police shootings of black people that has taken place around the country?
I think it is very concerning that some law enforcement officers are so quick to use their weapons. One of the reasons that this happens is because there is a lack of appropriate training of police officers, and a lack of community involvement. There used to be more community involvement and engagement by police officers — and officers knew the people they were assigned to patrol and the community knew them. Now, some police are so quick to fire off. Personally, what I can do from a prosecutor standpoint is to judge the police reports very carefully. If I see that officers are doing wrong, I have to hold them accountable and call them out on it. Being a prosecutor is really an important job.
Do you think additional police training and diversity training will be given to our Nevada police?
I really hope so. I hope that my office and the District Attorney, Steve Wolfson and head of police, Joe Lombardo, can really come together to assure more training. I have spoken on search-and-seizure to police officers getting ready to go into the field.
Do you think our Las Vegas community trust our present police officers?
Well, one thing I can say is that when I do jury trials, and we are trying to pick a jury, it’s getting really difficult for juries to come up with a decision based on police officers’ testimony. This is a result of community members’ lack of trust in police, so nobody wants to hear from the officers. No one believes them. It’s really difficult to prosecute people because they don’t want to believe in the officers.
How do you feel about race relations in Nevada?
I think that the election of Trump has really empowered racists. These same racists might have been afraid in the past to speak their opinions, but now feel empowered to act on their racist beliefs. They saw Trump saying and doing whatever he wanted during the election process, and they feel they can too. Hate crimes have been on the rise since November all over the country. Unfortunately, I think we are going to see people’s true colors of hate come out. Within our offices we haven’t see many hate crimes, but it’s on the rise all over the country. I think within the next few months, once Trump actually gets into office, it’s going to increase — and we will see more cases coming through our office.
For additional information you can contact Leah Beverly at Leahbeverly@yahoo.com.