Friday, October 15, 2010

crime and the criminals, the DA's complain

The government’s most comprehensive crime survey indicates that violent and property crimes continued to decrease last year even as the nation’s economy slumped, confirming an earlier FBI report.

The National Crime Victimization study, released yesterday by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, showed violent and property crime last year reached the lowest level recorded in the survey, first published in 1973.

The survey estimated that violent crime dropped by 11.2 percent and property crimes 5.5 percent from 2008 levels. The survey interviews more than 135,000 US residents, so it captures not only crimes reported to the police, but also those that went unreported.

Last month, the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report showed a 5.3 percent drop in reports to police of violent crimes last year and a 4.6 percent decline in property crimes.

Professor Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz School of Public Policy, a specialist on crime trends, said the data on crime victims bolster the FBI’s report, which seemed to buck historical trends of higher crime rates during periods of economic distress.

I got a letter from the States DA"s the other day and wondered what this was all about. The Globe tells the rest:

The Massachusetts District Attorneys Association sent a letter last week to candidates for state office, complaining that last year Massachusetts spent $92 million for district attorneys to prosecute close to 300,000 cases, and $168 million to finance public defenders in two-thirds of those cases.

“The system is broken,’’ Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said yesterday. “The funding for defending criminals is out of control, while the district attorneys are starving for dollars.’’

But defense attorneys strongly disagreed. Representatives of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, as well as the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, attended the event, with many defense lawyers sitting in the back of the room, arms folded, as the prosecutors talked.

“Your numbers are disingenuous,’’ said Rosemary C. Scapicchio, a Boston criminal defense attorney.

The defense lawyers argued that the boost in their funding occurred because court-appointed lawyers were at the time among the worst paid in the country. They also argued that the funding has helped to establish a good defense system for indigent people, making Massachusetts one of the best states at providing constitutionally protected legal counsel.

The defense lawyers also said the prosecutors’ numbers do not reflect the millions of dollars prosecutors receive in federal grants and from drug forfeitures, as well as contributions from investigative agencies such as local and State Police, state crime laboratories, and the state medical examiner’s office.

The district attorneys raised other arguments: Even with the boost in funding, the Committee for Public Counsel Services has routinely overspent its budget: Earlier this year, the Legislature approved an additional $33 million in funding because of budget overruns, according to the district attorneys.

The district attorneys argued that the system has encouraged some attorneys and court experts to depend on income from the state. In 2008 and 2009, for instance, the Public Counsel Committee paid more than $1 million to two psychologists who testify for indigent defendants in sexually dangerous person cases, according to the prosecutors.

The prosecutors also said the average assistant district attorney handles more than 400 cases a year, while the average criminal staff attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services handles about 100 cases.

The prosecutors’ group called for an equal distribution of funding to both prosecutors and public defenders, saying “the state’s budget priorities and values are out of synch with the public, and it is the public that is clearly paying as a consequence.’’

Please note... that the DA"s office, State and Local Police do NOT have to report their share of civil forfeitures proceeds, estimated to be in the multi millions. And, if the DA's would spend less time prosecuting low level drug possession, they'd have more time and money to prosecute real crime AND at the same time, freeing up public defenders to defend real criminals.


At October 19, 2010 at 5:58 PM , Blogger Michael said...

Sounds like they have a right to complain. What ever happened to fair funding for both sides of the table? We bend over backwards in this state to protect the rights of all and I get that. But there has got to be some equality in this or we are giving the criminals an unfair advantage in order to protect a potentialy innocent person from being convicted. If other states are not spending this way, then why are we? Does the term Probabion Department ring a bell with any of you?


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