Police, prosecutors working better together, Jessamy says

Fewer cases being dropped for legal deficiencies, statistics show

November 27, 2009|By Tricia Bishop | tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

Statistics from the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office show that fewer cases are being dropped because of insufficient evidence or other legal deficiencies, suggesting better collaboration between prosecutors and police.

"That's a good thing," said Baltimore City State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, who was sitting across a table from Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III at a criminal justice meeting this month. "It does indicate progress."

Bealefeld was silent on that issue, but he did point out that robberies - considered a gateway crime to more serious offenses - are down about 12 percent this year, or 400 robberies, compared with the same period in 2008.

The two branches, police and prosecutors, have to work together by necessity, but they've seldom had each other's backs, evident in an interview Jessamy gave to visiting British journalist Mark Hughes in October. She described the relationship as "schizophrenic." Her office frequently blames police for charging suspects without solid supporting evidence. And the police complain that prosecutors are just failing to make their cases.

Numbers through August show that 42 Baltimore City Circuit Court cases have been dropped because they were "legally insufficient," compared with 113 in all of 2008. And while there's still time to catch up, it's unlikely. That's largely because officers and lawyers are working together better to identify the types of evidence and legal procedures they need to convict the guilty.

The numbers also show a significant dip - if it holds steady - in investigation issues alleging things like illegal search and seizures by police. Two cases have been dropped for that reason so far this year, compared with 16 cases in 2008.

Yet officer "failures to appear" are on the rise. Five cases were dropped by prosecutors through August because officers didn't show up in court, compared with two last year.

"We still have a long way to go," Jessamy said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.