Harris opposes the death penalty but she says when these cases come before her, she picks a committee of senior prosecutors to review the facts and they recommend whether or not to ask for it. But in each case, she makes the ultimate decision.
Edwin Ramos, 22, is charged with murdering Tony Bologna and his sons Michael and Matthew in June of last year. Police say he pulled alongside Bologna's car in the Excelsior District and fired repeatedly, killing three of the occupants. Another of Bologna's sons was in the car but survived the shooting.
Friday in court, prosecutor Harry Dorfman made this surprise announcement.
The District Attorney has decided to seek the special circumstances penalty of life without parole; we will not seek the death penalty in this case," he said.
Since Ramos was charged with multiple murders and two other special circumstance offenses, Harris could have asked for the death penalty. But Harris is an opponent of capital punishment and she told reporters her decision fits the crime.
"We have thoroughly reviewed the facts and laws in this case and arrived at a decision based on that review," Harris said.
Harris was asked if there would ever be a time when she might ask for the death penalty.
"We take each case on a case by case basis...and I'll make decisions on each case as they arise," she said.
Marc Klass, whose daughter Polly was killed in 1993, is a victims' rights advocate and death penalty supporter.
"I believe that if somebody cold-bloodedly drives by and slaughters a man and his two young children, if that's not a case that's deserving of the death penalty, I would ask what case is," Klaas said.
So far, Harris has not asked for the death penalty in any murder case.
She is now running for state attorney general.
Political consultant Don Solem says her unwavering position on the issue will haunt her but says he cannot remember any politician who has won or lost a race based on the death penalty alone.
"Kamala's position is high on integrity, personal integrity of hers, she believes in something and follows it but it seems contrary to the expressed will of the public," Solem said.
Danielle Bologna, the widow of Tony and the mother of their two sons who were also killed, says she asked Harris for the death penalty. Bologna said in a statement she is disappointed and devastated by Harris' decision and feels the city has let her and her family down.