Criminal law

The mayor tries to drum up support for the crime bill ahead of the hearing

With homicides and auto thefts still rising in the capital, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, D, on drumming up support for emergency legislation that would create a new penalty for shootings in public and make it easier to detain some people while they await trial, appeared publicly with supportive lawmakers ahead of an expected vote on the measure Tuesday.

Although some in the D.C. Council have expressed reservations about the bill, Brock Pinto (D-Ward 2), who chairs the Public Safety Committee and sponsors the legislation, and Chairman Phil Mendelsohn (D) said they believe they have the necessary votes. To pass the bill. invoice.

At a news conference Monday, Bowser, who appeared with Pinto, Councilwoman Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Metropolitan Police and other officials, told reporters the legislation was needed to reduce recent increases in crime. She referred in particular to a provision requiring judges to assume that persons accused of violent crimes should be held in custody pending trial.

“I think it will have an impact the moment a judge decides that someone who has committed a violent crime should be held until trial,” Bowser said.

The emergency legislation sponsored by Pinto is similar to the legislative proposal Bowser herself put forward, called “Safer, Stronger” to toughen some of the city’s ordinances. Lawmakers are expected to take over measure In the fall.

Pinto said: “I think it’s important to realize that everyone in government now is working together on this.” “This is an emergency. We all understand the importance of following it as an emergency.”

The display of unity between the mayor and the chief of public safety belies the tension between the council and the Bowser administration over the state of crime in D.C. Some council members worried that Bowser’s legislative proposal would lead to mass incarceration, and others, including Mendelsohn, doubted that it would have a significant impact on violent crime.

“You can get away with murder in this city,” Mendelsohn, who recently told Fox 5, confirmed Monday that he sees an increase in the rate of case closures as more impactful on crime than passing legislation. He pointed out that the interim chief of the Metropolitan Police, Achan Benedict, called after his television appearance to express his displeasure and to ask if he was criticizing the police.

“The reason I point this out is because people are looking to the council to solve this problem,” Mendelsohn said, noting that 65 percent of homicides will not be arrested by police in 2022. “I don’t have a badge to make arrests. I don’t have a badge to investigate. But what will make The difference is the higher the closing rate, the more rigorous prosecutions will also make a difference.

Last year, the US Attorney’s Office for the district refused to prosecute 67 percent of those arrested by police officers are in cases that could have been tried in the High Court in the capitalthough US Attorney for D.C. Matthew M. Graves said they continue to file cases in the vast majority of violent felonies.

Leslie Parsons, assistant head of the Metropolitan Police’s Investigative Services Office, said looking only at closures in one year was an unfair way to measure police success, because some cases take longer to decide. Police said their closing rate for 2022 – which includes cases resolved from previous years and those closed for administrative reasons, such as the death of a suspect – was 62 percent, higher than the national average.

Bowser was more blunt, calling Mendelssohn’s quip about the D.C. murders “crap”.

“I’m watching what he’s doing. Tomorrow he’ll need to vote for the Brooke Pinto emergency without an amendment,” Bowser said of the chief, recalling the council’s vote to cut $15 million from the police department’s budget in 2020. “To make sure that when the police say we need to More cops, you don’t defund them.”

Despite his earlier misgivings about Bowser’s proposal, Mendelsohn said he would vote for the Pinto legislation and thought it would be “helpful”. He pointed to the new offenses created by the legislation, including strangulation and endangerment with a firearm – or shooting in public.

“There was a lot of positive feedback with respect to these two new crimes, both of which were included in the amended criminal law code that Congress complained was lenient but that enhanced the criminal law in many ways,” Mendelsohn said. “And those are two cases that we are moving to put into law now.”

10 murders in 5 days in the capital leave an international trail of grief

Council members are scheduled to debate and vote on Tuesday on the emergency provisions, which require an overwhelming majority of nine votes to pass the 13-member council. The law will be in effect for 90 days after the mayor signs it off.

Homicides in the area are up 17 percent from this time last year, an increase that contrasts with trends in other cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington. New York, where homicides are down this year. The capital continues to crack down on car thefts, recording 140 incidents in June, the highest number for a single month in at least five years. Meanwhile, the police are still without Permanent police chief for facing section Historically low number of employees.

The legislation proposed by the city’s mayor would introduce new penalties for gun crimes, make it easier to detain some youths awaiting trial and strengthen punishment for crimes against vulnerable adults, public transportation employees or passengers. It would also make it easier for prosecutors to argue and for judges to detain adults and juveniles accused of violent crimes and those with violent histories awaiting trial.

Pinto’s emergency bill reflects many of these provisions, such as creating presumptive pretrial detention among some people accused of violent crimes, enhancing access to private security cameras and allowing pretrial ankle surveillance data to be used as evidence against defendants.

But Pinto’s emergency legislation is not as stringent as Bowser’s legislation, especially on the issue of juvenile detention. While Bowser’s legislation says judges must presume that juveniles accused of violent crimes should be detained and allow their attorneys to argue against that, Pinto says judges should only use such a presumption if juveniles are said to be armed, except for a small number of crimes. Pinto’s legislation also eliminates one of the most controversial provisions in Bowser’s bill that would allow juveniles to be detained for their own protection, even if they are not considered a danger to society.

D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, who criticized Bowser’s proposed legislation, said increasing juvenile pretrial detention “will not make us safer and stronger,” but “instead will lock up more kids” without data to justify the move. He said Pinto’s emergency law took his concerns into account and “did not include many of the counterproductive elements” in Bowser’s proposal.

Bowser proposes a law that would make it easier to detain people before trial

At least among adults, according to December 2022 report According to the Pretrial Services Agency in Washington, D.C., 88 percent of people released pretrial have remained without arrest, and less than 2 percent have committed violent crimes while out on bail over the past five years.

Pinto said it has reviewed data showing dozens of people have been arrested for violent crimes while out on bail for a violent crime, although the Pretrial Services Agency was not immediately able to produce data available by the time of publication in response to a request.

“I believe that empowering our courts to consider violent crimes in pretrial detention decisions will make a difference,” Pinto said.

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