THE BRONX — Presumptive Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark defended her nomination but dodged questions about her plans for the office in a Wednesday meeting with local Democrats.
During a forum with the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club, Clark largely sidestepped questions ranging from how she would handle problems at Rikers Island to whether she would set up a wrongful conviction unit to her stance on the death penalty, according to audio of the session from the Riverdale Press.
"Not having been in the DA's office in years to know exactly what's going on, I can't speak to it," she said in response to the question about dealing with Rikers Island, "but as district attorney, you better believe that I will meet with all of the key stakeholders in that operation."
She offered a similarly evasive answer when asked her opinion on setting up a unit to review wrongful convictions in The Bronx.
"Having not been in the office for 16 years, I can't say exactly if I'm definitely going to do that," she said. "For all I know, even though there may not be a special named unit in The Bronx District Attorney's office right now, there may be that review going on already."
Colleagues of Clark have described her as tough, fair and qualified for the position, but her selection as the Bronx Democratic party's nominee has still been heavily criticized, as she was chosen by party leaders rather than through a primary.
Although critics have said this will make her less likely to prosecute political corruption in The Bronx, she vigorously disputed this claim and defended her independence at the session.
"I’m fearless. I am not afraid," she said. "So a politician, a health care worker, I don’t care who it is. A case comes in, I’m going to investigate it. I’m going to make sure it’s properly investigated. I’m going to weigh the facts, and then I will make my determination then, and it’s not going to be based on whoever it helps or hurts."
Although she described outgoing Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson as a friend, she said she found out about the vacancy in his office by following the news.
She emphasized that she had not come up with the selection process and was just hoping for the chance to serve as the borough's next district attorney.
"I didn’t create the process," she said. "I’ve been asked to serve. I think it’s a very important job to do, and I have the qualifications to do it."