The Washington Post devotes its lead editorial to “every judge’s worst nightmare”–releasing a suspect who kills someone. The editorial involves D’Angelo Thomas, 18, who was arrested for murder last October two weeks after gun possession charges against him were dismissed. The Post says that the “circumstances of the release — a police oversight compounded by a preoccupied U.S. attorney’s office and an impatient judge — provide a glimpse into the sometimes imperfect way justice is administered in the District of Columbia and how that is translated to city streets.”
When Thomas’s earlier case came to court, neither the case jacket nor an arresting officer was present. A prosecutor asked that the case be delayed, but defense attorneys objected and moved for dismissal, arguing that the government wasn’t ready. The judge agreed. The Post says it can understand the annoyance of a judge dealing with a crammed court calendar, slowed by prosecutors who are unprepared or lawyers who are busy with other clients. None of that can excuse a decision that at its most elemental lost sight of what’s really at stake. “Four young men — two with prior gun offenses — are picked up with loaded guns, and the court can’t spare five minutes to see if letting them go is really in the interest of public safety?” The case reportedly “resulted in some soul-searching at the court,” says the Post. Judge Dennis Doyle was unavailable for comment, citing the code of judicial conduct that restricts statements by judges about pending cases.