Wednesday, December 17, 2003
The May 28, 2003 Incident
Excerpt from account by Judge Dan Oki:
May 28,2003 was the Wednesday following the 3-day Memorial Day weekend. Shortly before 3:00 p.m., Judge Rehm and Judge Wesley reported to Judge Oki that Division 30 had approximately 190 defendants, and the District Attorney’s Office had only filed complaints on about 30 defendants by then. Susan Cichy estimates that in order to wait for all defendants to have charges filed, and the for the Public Defender and the Court to process the defendants, Division 30 would need to remain in session until between 10:00 p.m. and 11 :00 p.m. During that time the Court would be required to incur overtime expenses for its staff that would be staying to do the work, and for Sheriff s personnel to secure the entire 19- floor courthouse which must remain open for the public arraignment hearings.
After conferring with Judges Wesley and Rehm, Judge Oki called the Special Assistant District Attorney who had attended the previous meetings, and advised him that, as had been discussed many times before, the Court could no longer incur significant overtime expenses caused by the inability of the District Attorney’s Office to file complaints in a timely manner. Judge Oki offered to keep the arraignment court open as long as necessary to arraign all of the defendants if the District Attorney’s Office would agree to reimburse the Court for the overtime expenses. The Special Assistant District Attorney indicated that he was not authorized to approve the reimbursement.
Judge Oki then indicated that he had no choice but to stop arraigning defendants at the designated close of the official court hours, 4:30 p.m. He asked that the District Attorney’s Office make certain to file the most serious cases first, stated that every effort would be made to arraign those individuals, and that the remainder of the defendants would be brought back for arraignment the following day.1 Neither Judge Oki, nor Judge Wesley or Rehm, intended or ordered that any defendant who was not arraigned by 4:30 p.m. be released from custody. Judge Wesley and Judge Rehm then went to Division 30 to convey the decision to Commissioner Harkavy.
In Division 30, Commissioner Harkavy arraigned as many defendants as possible by 4:30 p.m., then brought the remaining defendants into court to order that they return the following morning. There was some concern that despite the lack of any court order releasing the remaining defendants, the Sheriff’s Department may feel compelled to do so on their own. Thus, working with a Deputy District Attorney and an LAPD Liaison Officer and his staff, Sheriff’s personnel researched each remaining defendant seeking an independent reason ( such as another outstanding arrest warrant) to continue to detain the defendants. According to a Sheriff’s Department report of the incident, discussions between their office, the LAPD Liaison Officer, Commissioner Harkavy , and the Deputy District Attorney determined that the best course of action would be for the Sheriff’s Department to release the remaining individuals, and that LAPD would re-arrest them upon their release. Later on that evening, however, LAPD made the decision not to re-arrest those individuals, apparently after discussion with their City Attorney’s Office. Unfortunately, during this process, no one discovered an outstanding $26,000 bench (arrest) warrant for Jerrell Patrick that had been issued on another case in Los Angeles County on May 6, 2003, and he was among those released and not re-arrested. Mr .Patrick is now charged with having committed a murder on June 26, 2003.
Within days of May 28, 2003, another management-level meeting of those agencies in attendance on March 20, 2003 was convened by Judge Oki to discuss what had occurred and to make certain that there would be no repeat of the incident. As a result of this and subsequent meetings, and the combined efforts of law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office and the Court, substantial, effective changes have been implemented to (I) prevent any similar release of defendants, and (2) file felony complaints earlier in the day so that defendants may be arraigned during regular court hours. These positive changes have included having LAPD detectives work on weekends to prepare cases for filing on the first, rather than the second, court day following the weekend; having Deputy District Attorneys work on the weekend filing cases so that they may be presented to the court early in the morning on the first court day following the weekend; and, whenever necessary , converting available existing courtrooms in the F oltz Criminal Justice Center to additional felony arraignment courts in the event of an unusually large number of felony filings.2
These cooperative measures by the entire criminal justice system have been highly successful, as proven by the ability of law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office, and the Court to arraign all defendants within posted court hours following the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Columbus Day holiday weekends.
1 Although Penal Code section 825 requires that defendants be brought before the court within 48 hours, excluding Sundays and holidays, it does not require that anyone not arraigned within that time period be released from custody, not that the charges must be dismissed.
2 This latter measure would not alleviated the problem on May 28,2003, since the difficulty that day was the delay in getting cases filed and sent into the courtroom for arraignment.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company