New initiative of the New York court to tackle the backlog of firearms cases. This is how it works.
STATEN ISLAND, NY – Citing an upsurge in shootings and gun arrests across the city, law enforcement officials on Tuesday announced a multi-pronged program designed to expedite and resolve gun cases.
The initiative, which kicks off next week, will feature judges appointed in each borough to deal with newly charged firearms possession cases.
In Staten Island, Justice Lisa Gray will preside over the special portion of the State Supreme Court of St. George, a spokesperson for the State Courts Administration Office said.
Weapons possession cases that have already been charged will also be expedited and prioritized by the judge currently handling the case.
The program targets all new and pending firearms cases before the Supreme Court and the State Criminal Court, in which the main charge is possession of second degree criminal weapons, a class “C crime. “, said officials.
Currently, more than 4,000 gun cases are pending in New York City courts, officials said.
There was no immediate outage for Staten Island.
The backlog is mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) which severely hampered court operations from March 2020, officials said.
According to the NYPD’s CompStat follow-up, there have been 900 shooting incidents in the five boroughs this year as of August 1.
That number is a 16% jump from last year’s total of 777 during the same period.
However, in Staten Island, shootings in the first seven months of 2021 are actually down by three.
There have been 22 shootings this year as of August 1 compared to 25 last year, according to statistics from CompStat.
EXPANDING THE CAPACITY OF THE GRAND JURY
Another key element of the program is the expansion of the capacity of the grand jury.
This segment will begin with increasing the number of grand juries in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens, officials said.
As for Staten Island, Lucian Chalfen, spokesperson for the state’s Office of Court Administration (OCA), said the current grand jury capacity here “is sufficient for the gun case.”
“If that changes, we will adapt,” Chalfen said.
Chief Administrative Justice Lawrence K. Marks said the new program is a collaboration between the OCA, the attorney’s office for each of the five boroughs and other stakeholders, including the Citizens Crime Commission. Defense lawyers were also consulted.
“With the recent increase in court gun cases in all five boroughs, this city-wide initiative will help ensure these important cases are resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Marks said in a statement.
Judge George Grasso, supervising judge of the Bronx Criminal Court, will oversee the daily operations of the program, Marks said.
Officials said the program will be closely monitored and analyzed.
Adjustments will be made, if necessary, to increase its effectiveness.
Veteran criminal defense attorney Mark J. Fonte has said he looks forward to working with Gray.
“Judge Gray is an exceptional choice for this new part of the court,” Fonte said. “She continues a long tradition of exceptional judges in criminal matters. I am sure this transition will be smooth.
‘CRUCIAL’ FOR IF
District Attorney Michael E. McMahon said the initiative was “crucial” for Staten Island.
The program will focus judicial resources on “decisively and expeditiously” to hold perpetrators of criminal firearms accountable and “to eliminate deadly firearms from our streets,” the prosecutor said.
“As gun violence continues to claim the lives of too many New Yorkers, it is imperative that we use all the tools at our disposal to help make our communities safer for all,” said McMahon. “… My office will continue to work with the NYPD, as well as our many community partners, to end the gun violence that continues to plague our neighborhoods.”
“Let the message be clear: if you take an illegal weapon, and worse yet, pull the trigger, I will seek to get you out on bail, then be prosecuted with all the rigor of the law, and now with this court. dedicated. , found guilty and sentenced as quickly as possible, ”said the prosecutor.