Local leaders discuss justice system with Charlotte community

Local leaders discuss justice system with Charlotte community

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Two judges, a police chief, an assistant public defender, and a district attorney, plus the community they serve, were all under one roof Thursday night to talk about rising violent crime in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

“In 2008 when my daughter was murdered, there were 58 homicides that year,” Lu Prudhomme said. “There’s 67 already into July this year.”

The high numbers point to repeat offenders, people going through the system dozens of times over.

“If we get to a point where I can get you into court faster, we can have a better opportunity to hold that person accountable, and that is the best strategy,” District Attorney Spencer Merriweather said. “Swift justice is the best strategy for dealing with a repeat offender problem.”

Judges on the panel pointed out that the magistrate setting bonds does not always have all the information.

“They don’t have the risk assessment, they don’t have the history of failing to appear, they don’t have the criminal history,” Judge Elizabeth Trosch said. “And so, that is something that’s a real problem we are working to address.”

Also explained to this crowd Thursday: Not every victim’s family gets to have a say in court.

“Not every judge actually affords the victim that right,” Merriweather said.

“Wow that’s interesting,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney responded.

Putney said he wants more transparency in these decisions.

“I’m not saying put them away and throw away the key,” he said. “What I am saying is, the community needs to know everything we do, the decisions we make, so there’s a level of accountability.”

The words seemed to land well to the room, filled with people who live in diverse areas of Charlotte, and from all walks of life.

“I was an individual who was a repeat offender. I have 16, 17 mug shots,” one man in the crowd told the panel. “If I’m wanting to meet with one of you to extend my services, are you willing to say, ‘Hey, yes?’” he asked them.

Judge Roy H. Wiggins said that is the type of community support – mentorship and support groups, and what they are calling a “Community Accountability Committee” – that he wants to see.

“We need more people that are willing to do that,” Wiggins said.

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