In order to prosecute and convict violent criminals successfully, the state's attorney's office must have strong, collaborative working relationships with the police department and other law enforcement agencies that gather evidence, investigate crimes and work with witnesses. We must put an end to the blame game and finger-pointing that has been a staple of Mrs. Jessamy's office. One of my priorities as state's attorney will be to build stronger working relationships between prosecutors and police, develop joint training programs and establish procedures by which prosecutors and detectives work together to build the strongest cases for prosecution. At the same time, the state's attorney's office is responsible for investigating and, where necessary, prosecuting those officers who violate the law, and I will not shirk from this responsibility.
5. For Mr. Bernstein: What policies and practices of the state's attorney's office, if any, do you believe need to be maintained? For Mrs. Jessamy: What policies and practices of the state's attorney's office, if any, do you believe need to be changed?
My main goal is to improve the effectiveness of the state's attorney's office in prosecuting and convicting repeat violent offenders. I will be accountable and transparent. I will track and publish conviction rates so the public can see our progress. My first step will be to conduct a full audit of the office's existing resources and programs and obtain outcome data regarding all programs and initiatives. I believe in maintaining and improving upon what works and changing what doesn't work. My decisions will be data- and performance-driven.
6. What can the state's attorney's office do to ensure that the original prosecutor or someone equally familiar with the case is present at violation of probation hearings?
Judges typically schedule multiple violation of probation hearings on the same day, making it difficult for the original prosecutor to be present at the hearing; however, as part of my overall plan to strategically use the office's resources to prosecute violent, repeat offenders, I would work to develop polices that would ensure that the original prosecutor or someone with intimate knowledge of the original case is present for the violation hearing. One way to do this is through more comprehensive use of the state's attorney's office's war room, which originally was designed to track the cases of these repeat offenders who violate their probation; instead, the war room prosecutors only make bail recommendations at the first appearance of the defendants when arrested on a new charge and do not track the case through its conclusion and violation of parole or probation hearing. I believe tracking these cases through their conclusion is necessary to make sure that these violent offenders are successfully prosecuted and they serve their original, suspended sentences. In this way, there will be prosecutors present who understand the importance of advocating for the revocation of probation and jail time when these offenders' cases come before a judge.
7. What can the state's attorney's office do to mitigate the chronic delays and postponements in the Baltimore Circuit Court?
Many delays occur because lawyers are not prepared. This is a disservice to witnesses, the court, the public and public safety. At a minimum, for violent, repeat offenders, I would instruct my assistants to be prepared for trial on the first trial date and inform the court that the state is ready to proceed.
8. According to a 2009 Sun analysis of data from the state's attorney's office, 478 murder cases were adjudicated in Baltimore in 2006-2008. Of those, nearly 40 percent resulted in not guilty verdicts, dropped charges or pleas or convictions on lesser charges. Among cases that went to trial, prosecutors' record of getting murder convictions was about 50-50. What factors contribute to this conviction rate and what can the state's attorney's office do to improve it?