Monday, November 15, 2010

Criminal Fugitive Cases Dropped

A very dangerous way to reduce court dockets, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

An excerpt.

“Twenty-three years later, the woman still trembles when she remembers the attack.

“The man pushed his way into her Kensington house at gunpoint, slapped her so hard her glasses shattered, then forced her to have oral sex.

“The alleged attacker, Francisco Sanchez, fled before trial, but the woman says she never gave up hope that one day he would be tried and convicted.

"I wished all my life that they would catch him," she said in a recent interview. "I would go to court to testify and do as much as possible to send the man to jail."

“But in a sweeping move to lower Philadelphia's staggering tally of 47,000 fugitives, top court officials have quietly dropped criminal charges against Sanchez and more than 19,000 other defendants who skipped court years ago.

“At the urging of Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille and District Attorney Seth Williams, Philadelphia judges closed criminal cases and canceled fugitive bench warrants for thousands of accused drug dealers, drunken drivers, thieves, prostitutes, sex offenders, burglars, and other suspects.

“The withdrawn cases are from 1998 and earlier.

"They were clogging up the system," said Castille, a former Philadelphia district attorney. "You're never going to find these people. And if you do, are you going to prosecute them? The answer is no."

“The woman attacked in Kensington was astounded by the decision.

"How could they erase the case?" she asked after Inquirer reporters told her the criminal charges had been withdrawn. "I was a victim. There were lots of victims. It's not right."

“The newspaper also located several Philadelphia bail jumpers around the country and told them their cases had been dismissed.

"I'm ecstatic," said Reginald Newkirk, who had been facing two drunken-driving charges. Reached at his current home in Watha, N.C., Newkirk was told that the charges had been withdrawn. "I'm glad to hear that."

“In Newkirk's 1991 arrests, police determined that his blood-alcohol levels were 0.273 and 0.277 percent - almost three times the legal threshold for intoxication at the time. Asked whether he had been drunk at the time, Newkirk, now 61, replied, "More or less."

“Another fugitive, Alfred Carter, who fled in 1989 before he was sentenced for a strong-arm robbery, is now living in Washington.”