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Judge proposes ‘Gun Violence Court’ to fast-track homicide cases through legal system

Baton Rouge WAFB 11/30/2022 Lester Duhé
Judge Don Johnson © Provided by Baton Rouge WAFB Judge Don Johnson

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Chief Judge Don Johnson of the 19th Judicial District Court is proposing to create a Gun Violence Court pilot program in Baton Rouge.

We’ve heard talk from leaders a lot this year about the need for all hands on deck when it comes to stopping crime.

“So, it’s going to take a collective approach, the district attorney, the judges, everybody who’s involved in the criminal justice system to address this issue,” said Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul (March 2022).

Judges giving low bonds to repeat offenders has been a hot topic. Many say it puts criminals back on the street to commit another crime, before their day in court on previous charges.

“We’ve got to sit back as judges now and be in front of the corrections, not allow ourselves to be in the middle,” said Johnson.

But there could there be a way to speed up the legal process when it comes to getting justice for homicide victims, and putting those responsible behind bars quicker.

“The design model that I’m proposing is a Gun Violence Court. Fast track these cases, so that if you’re arrested, that’s certain, and you’re charged, and you’re prosecuted and, if convicted, let’s get this system moving in about nine months and completed,” explained Johnson.

He released new details on what this program could entail. They include proposing state legislation to help and possibly fund this pilot program. It also proposes enhanced penalties for gun violence crimes across the state with legislation, and changes to bail standards when it comes to gun crimes in Baton Rouge.

Over the past few weeks, Chief Judge Don Johnson has been proposing to a group of elected officials, community members, representatives of organizations, and the business community a pilot project dedicated to ensuring a safer Greater Baton Rouge which respects the constitutional rights of everyone arrested for a gun violence crime in our parish.

At a recent meeting with families of gun violence victims, Judge Johnson gave a short presentation on his proposal. Some of the ideas presented are:

1. Propose state legislation to have a Gun Violence Court pilot program in Baton Rouge;

2. Facilitate enhanced penalties across the state with legislation;

3. Provide statutory preference and priority to trial through state legislation;

4. Study the criminogenic data on gun related crimes in Baton Rouge;

5. Address underlying issues of gun violence disparity as it pertains to race and socioeconomic conditions through exploration/expansion and funding gun violence prevention initiatives in Baton Rouge; and

6. Institutionalize robust bail practices for gun crimes in Baton Rouge

Proposed 19th Judicial District Court Gun Violence Court

“Let’s not have persons waiting to be adjudicated for years and years for accountability. That is what I’m promoting with the gun violence,” added Johnson.

The move already has the support of East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.

“I fully support Judge Don Johnson’s proposal to create a gun violence court pilot program in East Baton Rouge Parish. My administration has been actively assisting Judge Johnson with this proposal and will work with the state legislature and Metropolitan Council to help make it a reality,” Broome wrote in a released statement.

There is already a Domestic Violence Intervention Court to help deter repeat offenders.

Lawmakers may need to pass some sort of legislation next session to give more funds to the district attorney’s office and the public defender’s office to help make this gun violence court a reality.

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