Archive for Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Opinion: A matter of procedure

June 19, 2002

A recent newspaper story showed that more than a dozen violent felons charged in Wyandotte District Court were released from custody over the years because the district attorney's office failed to bring them to trial in time.

Kansas law dictates that persons charged with a crime must have a trial within 90 days of arraignment it's called the speedy trial law. Not everyone goes to trail in 90 days, some defendants ask for continuances and motion hearings.

However, in these instances, prosecutors failed to bring these defendants to justice.

Wyandotte prosecutors have heavy case loads and are sometimes stretched beyond their means. Keeping up with every case isn't always easy, especially in a very crowded court system like Wyandotte County.

Yet, the problem appears to be one of scheduling and court procedure. Unlike other Kansas counties in the area Leavenworth, Douglas and Johnson scheduling court hearings and keeping track of defendants is up to the district attorney's office.

Also, the same judge does not preside over every court appearance defendants can encounter up to three judges as they go through the system.

The court and district attorney's office should look at changing its procedures, making court scheduling the responsibility of the administrative judge. Also, after defendants make their first appearance in court when bond is set and initial pleas entered, attorneys assigned their cases should be assigned to one judge for the remainder of the process.

This shifts some of the responsibility on the judges, not just the district attorney's office.

This is the system the other counties in the area use, and it seems to work.

It isn't a matter of who's wrong or who should have more authority and responsibility. It's about making sure everyone receives a fair trail, and making sure everyone gets to trial.

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