More than 600 defendants facing such felony charges as drug dealing, robbery, burglary, and assault were set free in 2007 because the Louisville police officers who arrested them failed to appear for court hearings, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. Many of those escaping prosecution already had long criminal records. After their charges were dismissed, some defendants were arrested for other serious crimes. Judge Anne Haynie said officers missing court is a “huge problem” because it can result in suspects being arrested, jailed, and set free without a hearing on the evidence. “If it was important enough for someone to go to jail, you would think it would be important enough for someone to show up for court,” Haynie said, adding that some officers seem to have a “cavalier” attitude about attending court. “You do not charge someone with a felony unless you are serious about it.”
Police officials stress that most officers routinely come to court when subpoenaed, and that missing a court hearing occasionally is unavoidable. The dismissed cases from 2007 reviewed by the Courier-Journal as part of a five-month investigation of police officers’ court attendance point up some troubling finding. More than 1,000 criminal cases, including several hundred misdemeanors, were dismissed because officers missed court. That number includes more than 100 felony cases involving suspected narcotics, later confirmed by a state laboratory to be illegal substances.