It’s a compelling idea: create a special “gun court” to process crimes involving firearms, so that the cases are handled more quickly by a specialized team who achieve a higher conviction rate. In reality, there is no physical “gun court.” There isn’t even a special session of an existing court. The term merely refers to the team of prosecutors assigned to cases involving a gun. And there’s no reason to believe Gun Courts’ conviction rates are any higher than normal. So when The Boston Globe reveals that “A new gun court has been introduced in the Cambridge District Court, aiming to reduce the amount of gun crime in Cambridge, Arlington and Belmont,” Bay Staters should take the news with a pillar of salt . . .
TTAG spoke to a criminal attorney for a ground level look at the idea. Criminal attorney Lefteris K. Travayiakis represents clients in Suffolk County, where the State has set-up a a Gun Court. The government claims tremendous success for the concept: “An overall conviction rate that approaches 90%.” Travayiakis is not convinced.
“I see cases thrown out left, right and center every day . . . The statistics are easily manipulated. Is that 90 percent of all people charged with a gun crime or a 90 percent conviction rte for people who go to trial? Does it include defendants who take a plea? I haven’t seen any difference in my practice in seven or eight years. don’t think ‘Gun Court’ makes any difference at all.”
Travayiakis says the Gun Court’s zeal is often designed to inflate the numbers. “I’ve seen cases where there was one gun in a car and they charge all four people in the car with a gun crime. Eventually, the case against some of the accused gets thrown out, never even makes it to court.”
Alternatively, this, from Robert Haas, Cambridge police commissioner:
I am proud that the Cambridge Police Department is able to join the courts, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, and other area departments in this collaborative initiative to ensure that gun crimes receive the timely and serious scrutiny that they deserve in order to keep our streets safe for all who live in and visit our cities.