By Farrah Fazal
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Armed robbers and criminals with illegal guns may have had a special gun court to go to but circuit court judges in St. Louis shot down the idea Monday morning.
Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, Police Chief Sam Dotson, and Mayor Francis Slay lobbied the judges to pass Judge Jack Garvey's idea of an out of the box gun court. Judges voted 17-11 to kill the idea because it would have dedicated two divisions of the court only to gun crimes.
"What kind of bond works, what kind of sentencing works, what pre and post trial services work that has never been studied before. We would truly be breaking ground, creating something new here," said the mayor's spokeswoman, Maggie Crane.
PDF: Gun docket substitute resolution
Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce was going to assign two of her prosecutors to the gun court.
"Extensive pretrial support for these defendants, you had probation and parole that was special and enhanced, you had criminologists from UMSL who would be studying and tracking these cases and there was a real focused community resources on the problem of gun violence," she said.
Judges decided to pass a different idea. Judge Robert Dierker said his plan would speed up the process for non violent gun offenders. He could get them in and out of court in four months from the first day they are arrested.
"If we expedite these class of cases, we will do a service to the community," he said.
"All that we will be doing is moving gun cases ahead of murders rapes child molestation and things like that," said Joyce. She said she wasn't entirely familiar with Judge Dierker's plan but she would study it immediately. She said Judge Dierker's plan might improve things but "it remains to be seen."
City leaders may have lost this round of the gun court battle but they aren't giving up the war.
"We dont need judges' permission to move forward or hold them accountable so we'll be going to the general assembly, we'll be talking about it when the attorney general comes to St. Louis," she said.
Judge Dierker said the gun court would slow down other cases. His plan will get criminals with gun offenses through the courts faster. Researchers can still track their cases.
"It is not the harshness of punishment but the swiftness of consequences that deters crimes," he said. A rules committee must look at Judge Dierker's plan. It could be up and running by January.
Here is the circuit attorney's statement on the gun court:
"Gun violence is a serious issue in St. Louis. Today's discussion and debate over adopting the armed offender docket by the St. Louis Circuit Court judges was an important one.
"As the Circuit Attorney, I believe that the criminal justice system should be transparent and accountable to the citizens. An engaged community helps keep our city safe. Judge Garvey's armed offender plan offered transparency, accountability and a way to study the effectiveness of two specialized courts that would handle certain gun crimes. I pledged two attorneys to the armed offender docket and the city of St. Louis pledged resources to cover two additional attorneys to help with the effort. The plan provided more pretrial services to the defendants and included the involvement of the University of Missouri-St. Louis to study the effectiveness of interventions to reduce gun violence. I am disappointed that this plan was not passed.
"However, I am reviewing the alternative proposal set forth by St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Robert Dierker that was adopted by the court today. While concerns have been raised that the alternative proposal was more about form than substance, I am hopeful that the judges will keep considerations of promoting public safety in mind as they formulate the framework under which the plan will operate.
"As the Circuit Attorney, I will continue to work with the Court, the police and the community in an effort to reduce gun violence in St. Louis."