In a sweeping move to unclog Philadelphia’s jammed criminal-justice system, two influential justices of the state Supreme Court have endorsed a plan to spare thousands of victims of property crimes from having to testify in the early stages of criminal cases, reprots the Philadelphia Inquirer. Chief Justice Ronald Castille and Justice Seamus McCaffery are seeking backing from the court for a rule that in Philadelphia, only police need take the stand at preliminary hearings for suspects accused of stealing cars, taking other goods, or breaking into businesses or homes.
Police would stand in for victims, testifying that the victims had reported items stolen. This would end the procedure under which as many as 7,000 victims yearly are subpoenaed for hearings to attest that they owned property taken without their permission. The justices say the change would be another major step in their drive to overhaul a court system that puts victims through a gauntlet of delay and repeated appearances even as it fails to dispense justice on the merits in thousands of cases. If approved, as expected, by the seven-member high court, it would be the latest shake-up of a city court system riven by change since the Inquirer published an investigative report on the courts, “Justice: Delayed, Dismissed, Denied,” in December.