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De Blasio, again, calls for courts to fully reopen to address uptick in violent crime

Mayor Bill de Blasio | Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea called on district attorneys across the five boroughs and the New York state’s Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to fully reopen courts during a recent uptick in shootings in the city.

“I want to convene everyone and figure out what can the city of New York do to help each of you and all your colleagues get all of this right because, again, a little beginning of the court system won’t get it done. We need to find a way to get back to full strength,” de Blasio told reporters on Monday. ” If you don’t have a fully functioning court system then you can’t follow through the process like we normally do. ” 

City courthouses finally reopened in early June after being shut for three months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Almost all judges returned and 20 percent of all staffers returned to hear in-person emergency cases while the remainder worked remotely. 

“We have been working to reestablish full-court operations, including jury trials. While New York City still does not allow indoor dining, the Mayor blithely asks us to call in thousands of people a week Citywide for jury duty,” wrote Lucian Chalfen, director of public information for the Office of Court Administration. “Clearly he has absolutely no understanding of how the criminal justice process works.”

De Blasio further pressured DiFiore and the city’s DAs to fully reopen the given backlog of impending cases claiming that 50% of firearm charges have only reached a point of indictment. Shea said that there are 2,100 gun cases in the last two years that are still open. 

Although grand juries and trials are still on hold, multiple spokespeople from DA’s office argued that their office is still able to prosecute cases. 

“When an arrest is made, we draft the appropriate complaint and file it with the court. Every defendant who has been arrested and charged with a crime has been arraigned.  In the most serious cases, we have asked the court at the arraignment to set bail or detain the individual charged without bail,” said a spokesperson for Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clarke.” We have conducted numerous preliminary hearings in place of grand jury presentations to ensure that a defendant is being held in jail on their pending felony charges.”

“Our office never stopped aggressively prosecuting violent crime,” said Emily Tuttle, deputy director of communications for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office. “Courts have remained open for arraignments, and preliminary hearings have allowed us to meet our statutory obligations in the absence of a sitting Grand Jury.”

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