Prosecutor Incredibly Unhappy He's Being Forced To Respect That Whole 'Speedy Trial' Thing

from the accused-criminals-apparently-have-no-rights dept

There's general prosecutorial dissatisfaction with the founders' decision to implement due process rights for accused criminals. Flowing from the "limits" of the Fourth Amendment into the Fifth and Sixth, it seems the system is set up for prosecutorial failure. At least, that's the impression you get when you hear prosecutors actively arguing against enshrined rights.

Albuquerque, New Mexico is in the middle of a two-year experiment in case management. Far too often, accused were allowed to languish behind bars until the state decided to begin prosecuting their cases. The right to a speedy trial doesn't seem to be so much a right as an easily-ignored guideline. People lose parts of their lives and, often, their employment for having done nothing more than be accused of committing a crime.

The order [PDF] says prosecutors have 10 days to work from arrest to arraignment and the rest of the schedule is sped up for both prosecutors and defendants. Most productions of evidence (from either side) must be handled in five days and preparing for trial (including providing lists of witnesses expected to testify) is limited to 25 days.

There have been few complaints from public defenders as defendants are being cut loose more frequently thanks to the state's inability to meet this order's definition of a speedy trial. All the complaints are coming from the prosecution's side, which is the side with a greater amount of resources at its disposal.

Maddening, absurd and unjust.

Those are just some of the words Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez is using to describe a special set of court rules said to have created a backlog of 8,000 unindicted felony cases in the Albuquerque-area.

The critique is aimed at Bernalillo County District Court’s two-year experiment, known as the “Case Management Order.” The CMO was designed and implemented as a way to clear out the county’s notoriously jammed up district court calendar that caused overcrowding at the jail and left defendants waiting years for a resolution to their case.

"Maddening, absurd and unjust" could just as easily describe the system before the fixes were implemented. Defendants waiting years for their cases to be resolved is both absurd and unjust -- which is exactly what state Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniel pointed out when instituting the order.

“When the CMO was issued, the Second Judicial District had a backlog of approximately 6,000 untried cases,” wrote Daniels. “Cases often took two to three years to resolve, creating serious speedy trial problems.”

The order simply pushes prosecutors to hew closer to the Constitutional ideal. There is a right to a speedy trial. There is no right to prosecute. And there's nothing in the Constitution that even suggests rights should be suspended simply because the government has a backlog to work through.

DA Torrez claims the order has directly resulted in increased crime in the Albuquerque area. He also claims prosecutors don't have enough resources to tackle cases in the limited timeframe the order demands. At this point, you might think Torrez would develop some empathy with the public defense side, which is chronically underfunded pretty much everywhere in the US because most voters and taxpayers have problems with paying to represent "guilty" people.

Torrez is one of those people. At no point does he recognize the order also cuts loose those falsely-accused or those who the state wouldn't be able to successfully convict. Instead, he portrays this attempt to adhere to the "speedy trial" right as a revolving door for criminals.

Torrez says judges are throwing out cases based on the CMO’s strict rules, giving accused criminals a free pass until their case gets refiled, if ever.

“We’re dismissing cases and throwing cases out on technical grounds,” said Torrez. “We’re not making the criminal justice system function the way it should.”

Uh, you weren't "making the criminal justice system function the way it should" before. That's why you got hit with a judicial order forcing you to speed up your prosecutorial process.

And Torrez is definitely overstating the problem. CMO dismissals are the exception, not the rule, making his claim of a link between the CMO and crime rate spikes highly suspect.

On Thursday, Bernalillo district court officials came up with statistics on the number of case dismissals that have happened so far this year. Out of the 900 dismissed cases, only 13 percent were related to the CMO, according to the statistics.

There are few things uglier than an arm of the state complaining about the Constitution, even indirectly. It sounds like the DA's office simply needs to learn to prioritize, starting with the rights of the citizens it puts behind bars.


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 3:39am

    “We’re dismissing cases and throwing cases out on technical grounds,” said Torrez. “We’re not making the criminal justice system function the way it should.”

    So technical grounds?
    You mean like you shouldn't have brought the case in the first place & cut them loose?

    I wonder what higher office this DA was gonna be seeking with their awesome win record... you can't tell me that even an innocent person whos been behind bars for years isn't gonna take any deal to get the hell out and try to rebuild their shattered life.
    All that matters is it gets marked in the win column so their rate is nice and high. Doesn't matter if they inflated the numbers & screwed innocents... being tough on crime lets you move upwards.

    We have more money, more resources, more staff and its REALLY unfair you expect us to do that speedy trial thing (especially when many of these cases are so thin we needed to hold them in jail for a couple years to soften them up).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 10:58am

      Re:

      Part of the problem is that prosecutors are covered by the doctrine of absolute immunity -- that is, the courts have decided to simply refuse to hear lawsuits against certain people, without any basis whatsoever in the Constitution or any law. If anyone but the courts did it, it would be considered at best systemic corruption, and would more likely lead to racketeering charges followed shortly afterward by racketeering convictions. But isn't it funny, how the courts that are in charge of deciding if something is racketeering, never seem to declare themselves to be racketeers?

      You cannot sue a prosecutor for breaking the law because the courts are so corrupt they don't even notice they are corrupt. You can't prosecute one for breaking the law because it is the prosecutors who file charges, not private citizens. It doesn't matter how blatant or egregious the crime is. Short of getting a gun and shooting a corrupt prosecutor, there is literally nothing a wronged private citizen can do to get any kind of justice -- and assassinating a government official has consequences of its own.

      When a prosecutor violates your rights (a separate felony for each right violated, and another for each time each right is violated again), you have no recourse. All the power is in the hands of the court. It doesn't matter that there are laws that make certain actions by that court illegal, so long as the court refuses to police itself and no one else has the authority to do so.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2017 @ 12:10pm

        Re: Re:

        Some of those same people have also decided that the whole innocent until proven guilty in a court of law is ignorable, so maybe we should just start trying them in the court of public opinion until they are no longer practicing law.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Jul 2017 @ 12:01am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I support this, after all in the court of public opinion it only takes accusation to get conviction. Those convictions are life sentences. Also, if you really get on the court's bad side, there's the possibility that one of the judges will choose to become an executioner. So that's probably best avoided if at all possible in the court of public opinion.

          In reality, it's pretty much the same system as the one we're protesting, but we control it over them. So that makes it "right".

          "You want to see true evil? Go home and look in the mirror, you'll find it there."

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 26 Jul 2017 @ 3:53am

    When the prosucuter talks about "accused criminals", he is not fit for the job because `innocent until proven guilty'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 4:06am

      Re:

      Yeah, it's kind of a litmus/Rorschach test - how do you read that phrase and apply it to your job? If you read it as "people accused of being criminals" and act accordingly, you're fine. If you read it as "criminals who have been accused", you're not fit for the job.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2017 @ 4:13am

    In other words, we liked keeping people in prison for the term we decided on, before bringing them to trial. That way they serve their sentence before we lose at trial.

    /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 5:02am

    If, after even 5 days, you have nothing to charge then with, then it goes to follow you also have nothing to justify holding them in prison for either, so you have nothing to complain about when the case gets dropped.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 26 Jul 2017 @ 5:41am

    Can someone please accuse this turd of a book worth of crimes and put him in holding with no bail since he would be a flight risk?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 11:02am

      Re:

      Won't happen. He'll be released on recognizance the first day and will get to keep his job no matter what the charges against him are. Well, assuming his friends and coworkers in the prosecutor's office don't simply decide not to file any charges, that is.

      The way cops, prosecutors and judges are treated when accused of wrongdoing is how the system is supposed to work for everybody. That's what 'innocent until proven guilty' looks like in operation.

      It's only corrupt behavior because they reserve for themselves the treatment that the law says they must give to EVERYONE.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 6:12am

    It's a societal problem. I'm not sure if it is a new thing but people conflate "accused" with "guilty" which is far from a correct assumption. When you treat the accused as guilty it's only natural you'll think of due process as an unnecessary burden. And when you have that mindset you aren't seeking justice, you are seeking vengeance against that guilty-by-default person.

    We need more love and empathy in the world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 6:20am

    "And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you meddling judges!"

    Torrez says judges are throwing out cases based on the CMO’s strict rules, giving accused criminals a free pass until their case gets refiled, if ever.

    “We’re dismissing cases and throwing cases out on technical grounds,” said Torrez. “We’re not making the criminal justice system function the way it should.”

    Yes indeed, damn those rules for getting in the way of locking an accused criminal away for years before they are tried.

    I have to wonder exactly what function he believes the 'criminal justice system' is supposed to hold if releasing people because you never got around to holding a trial to demonstrate guilt before locking them up is apparently contrary to it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 11:04am

      Re: "And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you meddling judges!"

      What function? Why, filling the private prisons to capacity so he'll keep getting paid off by the prison corporation of course!

      What other purpose could a criminal justice system possibly serve?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2017 @ 6:31am

    It seems the system is set up for prosecutorial failure.

    As well it should be. If you can't prove a case, you shouldn't get to keep it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      DCue, 26 Jul 2017 @ 10:08am

      Re: It seems the system is set up for prosecutorial failure.

      The system was set up for "prosecutorial failure" with the Bill of Rights, however, that is not the practice in reality. About 95% of cases plead guilty to something whether the defendant is guilty or not, and the prosecution wins most criminal trials.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2017 @ 10:26am

        Re: Re: It seems the system is set up for prosecutorial failure.

        the prosecution wins most criminal trials.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2017 @ 11:06am

        Re: Re: It seems the system is set up for prosecutorial failure.

        "About 95% of cases plead guilty to something whether the defendant is guilty or not"

        Due to various reasons, mostly because the underfunded public defender's office convinces them to do so. The plea bargaining system in place does not promote justice, it promotes the private prison industry - as intended. Very few accept plea bargains because they are guilty. It is quite disgraceful.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 26 Jul 2017 @ 6:46am

    Other ways

    When I was in Jordan, headed for Petra, our driver stopped to help a fellow driver from his company in an argument with some Bedouin. turns out the other guy had hit a sheep that wandered onto the road. Driver says the owner wanted 2,000 Jordanian pounds, and the going rate for a sheep was about 200. Next afternoon when he picked us up, we asked what happened. He said it went in front of the local judge(?) that morning and was settled for a reasonable amount.

    Meanwhile, last time I wanted to argue a stp sign traffic ticket, I waited 16 months. When I showed up, they read off a long list of names and said "these cases have been dropped".

    Maybe we do have too many lawyers here...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 7:31am

    notoriously jammed up district court calendar that caused overcrowding at the jail

    Is this one of those for-profit private jails? It would be interesting to see if anyone in the court system owns part of any local private jails. Nice how they don't have funding to prosecute them but they have funding to keep them in jail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2017 @ 7:35am

    Instead, he portrays this attempt to adhere to the "speedy trial" right as a revolving door for criminals.

    Another law enforcement person whining like a bitch about their work being hard?

    Imagine that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 11:08am

      Re:

      If he wants to whine, perhaps he should become a garbage collector?

      More necessary to all levels of society, harder work for less pay, and it's about three times more dangerous than being a cop.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2017 @ 7:49am

    Needs a Mob, Tar, and some Feathers...

    ---
    Torrez says judges are throwing out cases based on the CMO’s strict rules, giving accused criminals a free pass until their case gets refiled, if ever.

    “We’re dismissing cases and throwing cases out on technical grounds,” said Torrez. “We’re not making the criminal justice system function the way it should.”
    ---

    How can people like this keep their fucking jobs?

    He is directly bitching about a system that was "intentionally" designed AGAINST fuck holes just exactly LIKE HIM, from ruining peoples lives.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 8:27am

    It's Albuquerque

    To be fair, the prosecutor's office probably isn't used to this kind of load since the normal MO for the APD USED to be go in with guns blazing while yelling "quick resisting!" at the top of their lungs. Now that the DOJ is watching them, they can't do this as much as the used to (although they do try their hardest to do it anyway), so the prosecutors are actually getting cases to try.

    /I wish it were sarcasm...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2017 @ 9:08am

    Need to look for justice

    instead of treating the justice system like a contest with "win/lose" statistics. And having a speedy trial actually helps.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      DCue, 26 Jul 2017 @ 10:12am

      Re: Need to look for justice

      Conversely, sometimes the prosecution (or judge) rushes cases it shouldn't and the defendant doesn't have time to prepare an adequate defense. This is just as bad as not having a speedy trial.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 26 Jul 2017 @ 3:40pm

    Just one more example of a government agency viewing the Constitution as an obstruction to their job.

    Guess what...it was meant to be that way!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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