CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather says the justice system is too small to handle the growth in Charlotte.
“There is so much about the way we are constructed as a judicial system, not just as a city but as a state, that is built for ‘small ball,’ that is not built for the type of city that we have grown into.”
DA Merriweather spoke to Charlotte City Council Monday night saying there aren’t enough prosecutors or judges to handle the immense caseload at the courthouse.
He says there are 215 murder defendants in Mecklenburg County currently waiting for their cases to process. That also means victims’ families are waiting.
Merriweather says one of the reasons things move so slowly is there’s a shortage of judges. “For some reason, we still have the number of judges dedicated to criminal court that we had 25-30 years ago.”
Merriweather spoke to city council leaders grappling with what to do about a spike in violence in the Queen City.
He says the current structure of North Carolina’s criminal justice system is that some judges bounce from one courthouse to the other. He says that’s not the case in other places.
“They don’t have one-week commissions for their judges, where you’re only able to use 3 days out of a 5-day week, because after that, the judge has to go off to some other county and go somewhere else, which means the people of Mecklenburg County have two unused days that they can’t do a thing with to make their community more safe.”
The district attorney is calling for safety in a city that has already seen more murders in less than seven months than in all of last year.
The district attorney called on city leaders to push state lawmakers to make changes to the structure of North Carolina's judicial system.
Fox 46’s Robin Kanady reached out to all of the state senators representing Mecklenburg County Tuesday, as well as some House members.
Representative John Autry was the only lawmaker to reach back out to Robin. He said state leaders have been in session in Raleigh Tuesday, swamped with some “critical votes,” and he was unable to comment on the District Attorney’s judicial system concerns Tuesday.