Suffolk County DA Conley calls ‘Gun Court’ a success
One year after instituting a special court intended to speed up the prosecution of offenders charged with possessing, carrying or using guns on Boston’s streets, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office announced last week that the “Gun Court” has been a resounding success.
The court, officially titled the Firearm Prosecution Disposition Sessions, was launched Feb. 21, 2006 in cooperation with Chief Justice Charles Johnson of the Boston Municipal Court Department.
Over the past year, Gun Court has seen nearly 300 cases disposed. The three-year backlog of gun cases that led Conley to start Gun Court has been wiped out, and the average time between arraignment and resolution for a gun case reduced by more than 50 percent from about 300 days to 144 days.
The district attorney was quick to note what he believes is the most important statistic at the one-year mark: Suffolk attorneys on the Gun Prosecution Unit have won convictions in 87.6 percent of the gun crimes handled in Gun Court.
“Gun Court has met or exceeded every goal we set for it,” Conley said in a statement. “Its effectiveness as a punishment and deterrent for those who would use guns in our city is indisputable.”
Initially conceived as a means to reduce the one-year average that a gun case spent in district court, Gun Court has also helped clear older cases that had been in the system since as far back as 2004. By November 2006, there were no pending cases more than 11 months old, and new cases were being resolved in an average of six months. Despite the expedited trial time, Conley’s office said, conviction rates did not suffer.
Gun Court prosecutors have resolved a total 295 cases involving defendants arrested for unlawfully carrying a firearm, unlawfully possessing a firearm, or unlawfully carrying a loaded firearm. In those cases, 170 defendants were convicted, according to Conley’s office. An additional 34 cases were moved to Superior Court, where defendants face harsher penalties for gun crimes. Eighty-two of the 295 cases were considered unviable for a variety of reasons, such as the absence of probable cause for arrest or a co-defendant’s claiming possession of the gun.
“Gun Court has been successful not only in taking guns off the street but in keeping gun offenders from returning to criminal activity,” Conley added.