Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Does St. Louis need an Armed Offender Docket?

St. Louis, like many cities around the country, is experiencing an increase in crime and acts of violence, especially gun violence. The number of guns that are used in crimes and the number of guns that are stolen is up.

When we look for ways to combat these increases, the suggestion of an Armed Offender Docket, a dedicated path through the City’s Circuit Court system to specific courtrooms, continually comes up. It’s been suggested by former Police Chief Dan Isom, by Mayor Francis Slay, by Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce and by professors from the University of Missouri - St. Louis as a way to better monitor outcomes for individuals arrested for “lesser” charges like Unlawful Use of a Weapon.

Police officers know far too well from experience that these gun crimes are sometimes precursors to more serious crimes. An Armed Offender Docket would allow closer monitoring of outcomes, more accountability, and ultimately, safer neighborhoods.

The fact is that the administration of justice has consequences, some of which are avoidable. Too often, the decisions made by some judges, not all but some, impact public safety in such a terrible way.

Almost every day, reports come across my desk about people who have been arrested while serving probation. I once thought being under the microscope of probation would encourage good behavior. Unfortunately, that is not always, or even often, the case.

This week, Rashad Edwards’ case made that point forcefully.

As a 17-year old, Edwards was arrested for Unlawful Use of a Weapon. His case slowly moved through the Circuit Court system and in April 2012 (over a year-and-a-half after his arrest) and just shy of his 19th birthday, he was sentenced to two years of probation along with guidance from the court to get a GED and continue to work, perhaps part-time due to school.

In February 2014, nearly two years after being sentenced, his probation was extended until April 2017, until almost his 24th birthday. The comments say, “… is hereby extended for a period of 3 years or until 4/11/2017 the extension would allowed (sic) Edwards to successfully complete the conditions of his supervision. So ordered: Judge Margaret Neill.”

Here is the unfortunate reality: Rashad Edwards is not going to get a GED, work or successfully complete his seven years of probation. On July 2, 2015, he was charged with Murder 1st Degree, the most serious crime.

What started in 2010 as a 17-year old arrested for UUW ended in 2015 with an individual almost 22-years old charged with Murder. It ended with an individual who’d been in the criminal justice system on probation since 2012 being charged with murder. It ended with a family losing a loved one to a crime committed by a person who had never faced life-changing consequences.

I am a pragmatist. I know that some judges have difficulty sending young offenders to prison. I don’t envy their positions, but I also know that some judges live in anonymity behind the bench and never see the true outcomes of their decisions. The reality is that judges are as responsible for public safety as the police officers who ride in our neighborhoods.

While no system is perfect, and while there are outstanding judges just like there are outstanding police officers, there is a fix for this one. A man might still be alive if Rashad Edwards hadn’t drawn a judge who put him on probation.

I can’t think of a more compelling case to have an Armed Offender Docket in the City of St. Louis.

(Information about his case can be found at www.courts.mo.gov)

4 comments:

  1. Edwards pled to a class D felony. It was a first offense. The normal disposition for this is SIS probation. I suppose you believe that a 17 year old who pleads to a non-violent, low level first offense felony should go to the penitentiary? Judge Neill put him on 120 days' GPS which is unusually severe. His probation violation wasn't due to picking up a new case, so your example fails in show how judges are too lenient. All a judge can do is work the case in front of them, not read the future. No judge has clairvoyance to see future murders.

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  2. Moreover, Chief, it's really despicable that you would publicly put blood on the hands of Judge Neill. Not only are you trying to embarrass her, you want her to believe she is somehow responsible for a murder. I have no doubt had she known this murder was going to occur, she and any other decent person would do what they could to prevent it. Arguing that she is responsible is just disgusting.

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  3. I agree Cheif totally. These judges sucking up to the left letting this criminals thugs out. Before they should be let out.. So yeah they're going to keep targeting Leo. Innocent ppl why? Because they know this admin those groups and some so called singers will bail them out. That's why. They have no respect for the PPl who risk their lives, risk their families etc daily to protect them 24/7 and don't even get paid a fourth of what they should be. Sickening to the core! Instead of this admin worrying about getting out there taking guns out of hands of illegals, thugs, felons and gangs. No they want to take from tax law abiding ppl. Take from voters with a mind. This Admin is starting to look like they want as many as possible good ppl hurt.

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  4. And what gets me is look at what this person did that got out off to soon! And seriously someone pubically makes a comment about it? That the judge was right? Don't call the judge out? Lol!!! That's the problem to any Americans have been quiet for to long. Look at who all has had the stage and spot light for years and what's happened to this country???? Yeah ! Bingo! As they say sleeping giants sleep no more. They're awake, expresso coursing through the veins. Many pvt citizens now! Watch over our LEO! We have approved and don't care how much more it costs but we wanted more cops. More cops respond to all calls all the time. Two cops every car. Armed to the teeth. No more pansy handling that's the problem. U have ppl taunting cops. Setting them up. Making them selves get pulled in hopes of something happening for hopes of a big pay day and a cops life getting destroyed. No one is blind to this anymore! Like some dying in custody? Some not I but some have pondered what is their religion? Will they commit suicide to try to get a point across and set up cops again, big pay day? We need to make sure all officers some fashion have camera mics or on a open line at all times being recorded. No more! And of u do like several of our cities. And start like I said 2 men to all cars, and I don't care what type of call comes in u send out 2-6 cars to all calls watch how fast this BS stops! Their coward, UN educated, foolish clowns! With the lefts hands up they hi ho using them.

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