What to Know
- The typical case for an aggravated assault with a firearm takes 300 days to resolve, according to District Attorney Larry Krasner.
- A central hope for the new Non-Fatal Shooting Program is that swifter resolution of cases will deter future gun violence.
- Violent crime is up 3% year-over-year since the start of 2019, while shooting incidents are up 9%, police statistics show.
The Philadelphia court system has begun a new program that will provide a dedicated courtroom to non-fatal shooting cases in an effort to expedite hearings for suspects of those types of crimes.
The Non-Fatal Shooting Program will involve judges who preside over homicide cases and use guidance by the District Attorney's office to identify "cases that involve a gun ... and where a victim has been injured," the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania said in a press release.
Supervising Judge Leon Tucker, who assigns cases in Philadelphia courts, said the program will ensure preliminary hearings in the selected cases be held within 21 days of the preliminary arraignment of suspects.
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He said the program is needed "to address the rapidly increasing incidence of non-fatal shootings and their impact on public safety."
Aggravated assaults with a gun are up 9% year-over-year since the start of 2019, according to statistics tallied by the police department through Sept. 1.
Total violent crime incidents, which include homicides, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, are up 3%, the statistics show.
District Attorney Larry Krasner said the new program could also have a lasting effect on violence deterrence.
"Historically, the average shooting case has taken about 300 days from charging to resolution," Krasner said. "Reducing that time can deter further shootings because criminological science confirms that the swiftness of punishment can effectively deter crime. Superior handling of the cases will also increase the accuracy of convictions and the fairness of sentencings, which also deters crime."
In addition to guaranteeing preliminary hearings with three weeks of the initial arraignment, the program will:
- Provide for formal arraignments within two weeks of the preliminary hearing
- Bypass the current scheduling system
- Schedule a trial for the earliest possible date before a judge assigned to the Homicide Program in Common Pleas Court
- List a trial readiness conference within 21 days of the formal arraignment