The worst of Miami-Dade County’s criminals, the handful who have been arrested over and over again and convicted repeatedly for murders, robberies and rapes, are being sent to a new Repeat Offender Court, says the Miami Herald. Some believe they are unreformable, and statistics show they account for a disproportionate number of the crimes committed countywide. Critics worth that the new court will stigmatize some defendants as hardened thugs. Prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement officers insist that won’t be the case. They hail the new court as the best way to move cases along faster.
Judges in ROCourt, as it’s already being called in courthouse circles, will have lighter caseloads and be able to devote all their time to the complicated cases of career criminals. Meanwhile, those cases won’t bog down other judges. “‘They’re usually the worst of the worst, and they’re looking at severe penalties so there’s absolutely no incentive for them to go to trial,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle explained. “So delay becomes their objective. Our objective, for our victims, for our witnesses, for the integrity of the case, is to get them to trial.’ Police Chief John Timoney called the idea ”outstanding” because he hopes it will get more of the county’s worst criminals off the street. Public Defender Bennett Brummer said these defendants deserve a fair trial, even if they have been in trouble before. “‘There is no legitimate reason to create a specialty court to handle repeat offender cases that are exactly the same as those handled in all of the other felony courts,” he said. Circuit Judge Stanford Blake, the chief administrative judge for the criminal courts, insisted that jurors won’t know they’re in ROCourt. Blake, a former defense attorney, said he felt defense attorneys should be happy with the new division because it’s an effort to get their clients through the system, and if they’re innocent, out of jail.