Mecklenburg, N.C., District Judge Jerome Leonard, under fire for having the lowest drunken driving conviction rate in the county, won’t hold any more court this year and may retire, says the Charlotte Observer. Leonard, 68, a retired judge who has helped handle the county’s heavy caseloads, reportedly made the decision about a week after the Observer disclosed that he acquits six of every 10 DWI suspects tried in his courtroom. Leonard told Mercer that with all the criticism over his DWI conviction rate, he no longer felt it was worth holding court, one source said.
The Observer investigation found that N.C. judges acquit more than a third of drunken driving suspects who test over the legal alcohol limit — 0.08 percent or more — but fight the charges in court. Leonard has refused to talk about his record handling DWI cases. “I just take each case on its merits and look at what the evidence shows,” he said in July. Many police officers and prosecutors regard Leonard as Mecklenburg’s most lenient judge. They call him “Let ’em Go Leonard.”