Hat tip to Paul Kersey:
Atlanta CBS News Investigative Reporter Joanna Massey dissects the problems in the courts. This is thoughtful reporting (here is part 2), and hopefully there will be follow-up on points raised by the story, such as:
- Why is it that county prosecutors do not so much as try to enforce Georgia’s recidivism laws? The prosecutor in the story tells the reporter that she uses her discretion in every case. Well, if discretion means someone who has been arrested 69 times and accused of multiple violent crimes gets released back onto the streets again, then maybe discretion needs to be taken out of the hands of the Fulton County D.A.’s office in the form of a real recidivism law for Georgia.
- Why, for that matter, don’t prosecutors have the mindset of seeking to impose the recidivism law in every possible case? All victims deserve to be treated equally. The law should be applied evenly. Allowing criminals to get away with crimes inevitably tells them — especially impressionable juveniles and the mentally ill — that there will be no consequences for their actions. Anybody who has lived with a three-year old knows the consequences of that. The ethical culture of the D.A.’s office needs to change.
- We’re not doing criminals any favors by letting them get away with — well, escalating patterns of violence until they get sent away for life. Ricky Love, the offender profiled in the news story, does not appear to have a state prison record. If that is true, it means that exactly none of his 69 arrests or multiple convictions got him state time — not robbery, not assault. In other words, somebody in the D.A.’s office, the courts, or both, dropped the ball 69 times in a row.
- What political motive lies behind Paul Howard continually insisting that his office does not need more resources? Who is he trying to appease by saying that, when it is so obviously false? The prosecutor in the news story appears to have been told not to acknowledge that her caseload prevents her from examining every defendant’s full record. She sure looks caught out when she says: “You deal with the facts that you have on that day, on that case, and you make a judgment call.” The city needs more prosecutors, of course, if prosecutors don’t even have the resources to know who they are convicting.
- Why did Judge Craig Schwall agree to release this offender? He can pass the ball to the prosecutors, but he has discretion, too. Every time I watch a judge suddenly getting tough on an offender, it reminds me of all the times they didn’t do it when nobody was watching. There needs to be new standards for judging judges at election time, something a little more judgmental than “check incumbent box.”
- And that will require information. Data. A new transparency at the Fulton County Clerk of Court’s office. Why has nobody filed impeachment papers on Fulton Clerk Cathelene Robinson? She is standing in the way of the residents of Atlanta gaining access to the records of criminal convictions, pleas, and non-prosecutions, records they will need to see in order to understand what is happening in the courts. How to reform the dysfunctional Fulton Clerk of Court’s office? The state body overseeing them is the Georgia Superior Court Clerk’s Cooperative Authority (GSCCCA). More on this later…
- Atlanta could easily take a page from Houston County, located in the center of the state. The Houston County District Attorney provides immediate web access to all case events and sentencing outcomes, so people there can see precisely what the DA’s office is doing at every phase of a prosecution. What would it cost to post these records in Fulton? They must be databasing them internally, right? People have a right to know what their prosecutor’s office is doing.
- The Court Watch volunteers are heroes. The Court Watch program in Atlanta needs to grow. And while Paul Howard deserves a lot of credit for creating a court-watching program in conjunction with his office, I hope the Atlanta Court Watchers will also branch out and grow into an independent organization. It is important to witness those cases where the nobody invites you to watch, too.