Sunday, February 22, 2009

Another Way to Reduce Pre-Trial Incarceration Rates

Bexar County is fairly well-known for its alarmingly high incarceration rate, as well as its' elected officials not only refusing to implement diversion techniques but actually wanting to prosecute people for engaging in lawful activity.

So it comes as absolutely no surprise that they are ram-rodding thousands of old cases through their system.

Personally, I can't stand Bexar County's presiding court system, where cases are called to trial in whatever court happens to be free that day regardless of which court has dealt with all of the pre-trial evidentiary (or other) issues. It's disjointed at best, and could serve to cause one judge to countermand the decisions of another in the exact same case. But that's a distant second to the current attempt at extorting plea bargains--an extortion scheme that actually benefits defendants more than anyone. The state has a smaller pool of prosecutors that will now have to prepare a larger pool of cases for trial. Defense lawyers will smell blood in the water and will be able to either force lower please or have an unprepared DA go to trial--when he'll have dozens of others to prepare for as well.

If these judges wanted lower docket numbers they should have been setting reasonable numbers of cases for trial at reasonable intervals. Everyone would have had time to gather evidence and put witnesses on notice, as opposed to the current rush, which will find cases called to trial where witnesses could not be found or the prosecutor will have be looking at the next twelve cases he has to try and decide that he has to plead some out for lower punishments than he otherwise would have just to get some breathing room for the next case. That doesn't serve justice for any side, and puts clearance rates ahead of guilt or innocence, and certainly above justice.

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