Messenger: Public defender’s office offers a cure for St. Louis circuit attorney’s failures | Tony Messenger

Mahaffey offers a solution that fixes both problems: stop filing cases by complaint, at least

Mahaffey offers a solution that fixes both problems: stop filing cases by complaint, at least in those cases where Gardner intends to seek a grand jury indictment.

“If someone, either the court or the prosecutor, would care about addressing the Supreme Court rule on the 30-day time limit and the effect it has on defendants, we could make real progress toward addressing situations like we saw this week,” Mahaffey said.

Here’s what happens under the current system: Police apply for charges to Gardner’s office. She files a complaint, and a judge issues a warrant, which leads to the arrest and jailing of a defendant, often without bail if the defendant is facing a violent charge. But Gardner, unable to muster the staff or evidence to conduct a preliminary hearing, or to obtain an indictment by grand jury, delays and delays. Judges often let her office get away with it, creating a shadow grand jury docket.

The temptation to arrest and jail people accused of violent crimes immediately is a strong one, but it jeopardizes the entire criminal justice system if the prosecutor doesn’t have the ability to follow through in a timely fashion.

The backlog crowds the jail with defendants who can’t get access to a speedy trial, leading to the sort of riots that happened at the city jail late in 2020 and early in 2021. And as Gardner tries to catch up on the backlog of grand jury indictments, other murder cases end up dismissed as Campbell’s was. In that scenario, defendants’ constitutional rights are violated; victims’ families are left in the cold; and public safety suffers as potentially violent offenders are released from jail and, then, perhaps, re-arrested so the process can start all over again.