Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Despite Mayor Reed's request, Fulton County Court won't suspend its Non-complex Division

Posted By on Tue, Jan 4, 2011 at 4:55 PM

The circumstances surrounding the murder of Georgia State Trooper Chadwick LeCroy have shone a harsh spotlight on the Fulton County Court system, in particular, its Non-complex Division. Despite a recommendation by Mayor Kasim Reed, District Attorney Paul Howard and Atlanta Police Chief George Turner that the division be temporarily suspended while a probe into its operations is performed, Fulton County Superior Court announced today that it has "no plans" to discontinue the it.

The man being charged with the LeCroy shooting, 30-year-old Gregory Favors, had 19 arrests and 10 convictions in Fulton and Cobb county courts. Recently — in July — Favors was charged with fleeing from the police, criminal damage from property and possession of cocaine, among other things, and went before the Non-complex Division.

The division was created in 2006 to adjudicate lower-level felony cases and to do so within 90 days.

In light of Favors' rather extensive rap sheet, the District Attorney's Office recommended a sentence of 30 years to serve four in prison. Instead, Favors was sentenced to 30 years to serve just 90 days. With time served, he was only actually behind bars for 30 days. (Favors was also arrested on Dec. 11, but was let out on bond because neither a warrant nor an affidavit was submitted in time for his first appearance.)

On Dec. 29, Howard, Reed and Turner issued a strongly worded letter to Chief Judge Cynthia Wright addressing the "serious crisis" they say the Non-complex Division has created. Here's an excerpt:

It is our belief that what happened with the Favors’ case is not an isolated event, but occurs regularly as part of the Non-complex criminal court division. This division was created in 2006 to provide a fast track for disposing of “low level” felonies within 90 days. The idea of time standards to dispose of criminal cases is an appropriate one. However, this division operates with an approach and philosophy of “moving cases” that is inconsistent with community safety ...

As such, we believe that operations of the Non-Complex Division should be temporarily suspended and the cases distributed to the 16-Superior Court Judges (as is done in every other jurisdiction in Georgia) ...

This afternoon, Fulton Superior Court released the following terse reply:

The Fulton Superior Court has no plans to discontinue the non-complex docket.

National experts have endorsed our system. It is an appropriate and proven way to handle low-level, non-violent offenders in a timely and cost effective manner so that the jail can house those accused of serious offenses.

An experienced, elected judge will be in charge of all proceedings including hearing cases, sentencing offenders and providing oversight.

More on this soon, I'm sure.

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