Gun Court Moves Toward Vote by Judges
ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Plans are moving forward for the possible creation of a gun docket in St. Louis Circuit Court.
The proposal by Circuit Judge Jack Garvey would create two divisions dedicated to both armed robberies and unlawful use of a weapon cases. The goal would be to deliver more consistent outcomes for gun cases, following complaints that gun defendants frequently get second chances and are back on the street committing more gun crimes.
The University of Missouri St. Louis Department of Criminology would track the results to determine if the speciality court would help lower total gun crime in the city.
Speaking at a luncheon with judges, the circuit attorney and police chief — Mayor Slay called the number of armed robberies in the city “unacceptably high.”
“Armed robbery is the type of crime that makes good people say, ‘That’s it. We’re going someplace else,’” Slay said.
Chief Sam Dotson also spoke, telling the judges, “People are afraid of seeing the same people on the streets re-offending.”
Presiding Judge Philip Heagney was non-committal about the plan. When asked about the complaint that under his leadership the courts have been too lenient with gun offenders, he told KMOX:
“It’s interesting. I don’t know that I would agree with that,” Heagney said, “But I would keep an open mind. I would want to see the statistics. Unquestionably, we give a number of people a chance at suspended impositions of sentence.”
Judge Thomas Grady says the idea a gun court has “some merit,” but he added that the courts alone can’t solve all the problems of a city where so many families lack a father in the home.
“We are not a re-parenting organization,” Grady said, “If children are left in great numbers without father figures, and are left out on the streets and end up in the wrong company, they create a kind of terror.”
Under the plan four prosecutors would be dedicated full time to the gun docket — two from the circuit attorney’s current staff, and two more to be hired. Mayor Slay’s Director of Operations Eddie Roth told the luncheon crowd that he is working to acquire $180,000 in funding within the city budget to fill those two extra positions.
If circuit judges approve the plan when they meet to vote on it September 16th, backers say the gun docket could become a reality in St. Louis in January of 2014.