L.A. Court Closes, Inmates Freed–Indefinitely

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At least five defendants released from a Los Angeles jail in May after officials failed to arraign them remain at large, the aftermath of a feud between L.A. County prosecutors and judges that all sides describe as embarrassing, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The defendants, accused of such crimes as carjacking, assault, and robbery, were among dozens released May 28 because their arraignment would have forced the court to stay open past the 4:30 p.m. closing time. One of those set free is now wanted in connection with a murder last month, increasing rancor between prosecutors and judges over who is to blame for the releases.

Los Angeles County Superior Court judges, grappling with cutbacks caused by the state budget crisis, decided that the court needed to enforce the 4:30 p.m. closing time to reduce overtime. They blame police and prosecutors for filing charges late. A Los Angeles prosecutors association accuses the judges of placing penny-pinching before public safety.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that they can’t let it happen again. “The public doesn’t want to hear this, but the public safety needs to be balanced against budget concerns,” said Judge Dan T. Oki. “The court cannot afford to keep doing this. We do not have money.”

Link: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-released7aug07,1,4380575.story?coll=la-headlines-california

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