More than 4 in 10 cases in Fulton County GA’s “rocket docket” were dismissed in in the last six months of 2010, a rate nearly twice as high as other big cities with similar courts, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The judge who oversees the rocket docket, which expedites low-level felony cases, says dismissals are high because of the low quality of many cases he gets from police and prosecutors. The Fulton County district attorney places blame on the judges for the dismissal rate, arguing judges side with defendants too often when defense attorneys challenge evidence and police searches.
A lighter case load that weeds out weak cases, argues Chief Magistrate Richard Hicks, would give judges more time to concentrate on the most serious cases. The so-called rocket docket Hicks oversees is expected to handle low-level felonies within nine weeks of arrest. The court became the center of controversy when Georgia State Patrol Trooper Chadwick LeCroy was shot to death in December. The accused gunman had walked out of jail days after being charged with an attempted car break-in because the arresting officer failed to testify in court. In July, the career criminal got 60 days plus probation on a cocaine plea despite being on probation. District Attorney Paul Howard took judges to task for lenient sentencing. Judges say the system is so overcrowded that it’s tough to give cases the full attention they deserve.