On July 10, nine-year-old Tyrese Short was shot in the head and killed while riding in a car with his father in north St. Louis. On July 17, Mario Shackelford, 29, was fatally shot in Kiener Plaza during a fight allegedly over spilled beer. On Sunday, John Paulsen, a Kansas native and hotel director, was shot and killed in south St. Louis, reportedly for no other reason than being in the "wrong place, wrong time."
And this week, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is seeking input on what he is describing as an unprecedented and "extraordinary opportunity to reduce gun violence in this city." It's a court system reform effort that he has been pushing for some time now -- and one that he and his staff hope will come together this fall.
"[W]e need to work together, and we need to get started right away," Slay writes in a recent Facebook post that he's labeled a "long read."
The goal? An armed offender docket.
See also: - Gun Docket: Can the Courts Do a Better Job of Prosecuting Weapons Offenses? - 6-Year-Old Boy Accidentally Shoots Leonard Smith, 11, in Belleville - Feds Target Metro St. Louis: 267 Firearms Seized, 159 Charged
Slay outlines the idea in a lengthy Facebook post this week, in which, in a somewhat unusual way, he calls for reactions, repostings, commentary, shares and more social media engagement on this matter. (The full text of his post is on view below; it's only viewable to the mayor's friends on the site, of which he has nearly 5,000, the Facebook limit).
The idea of the armed offender docket, which he is promoting through this new Facebook campaign, is to create a "a specialized trial division whose purpose would be to deliver a comprehensive and evidence-based judicial response to the chronic and unacceptably high incidence of gun offenses in the city of St. Louis."
This division, within state circuit court in St. Louis, would exclusively handle two classes of gun cases: Unlawful use of a weapon (in which the alleged offender is charged with illegal carrying or firing) and first-degree robbery (in which the alleged offender is charged with using a gun).
"These are the gun crimes that have the most pervasive effect on law abiding citizens' sense of personal and neighborhood security," Slay writes. "These are the gun crimes, in our judgment, where the court could have the most profound impact in preventing future gun violence."
He explains that it would not be a "treatment" court like drug court, but rather a "violence reduction" court in which dedicated judges would have the "full array of tools to do justice and help prevent further violence."
In the same way that Juvenile Court judges offer consistent and expert oversight in a specific area, armed docket judges would handle all matters in these kinds of cases, he notes, "from arraignment, to bail determination, to trial or plea, and sentencing and post-sentencing supervision."
Eddie Roth, Slay's director of operations, tells Daily RFT, "The court can really be the focal point of understanding these gun offenses."
"Nothing is more important to neighborhood stability and the progress of St. Louis," he continues, "than reducing the incidents of gun violence, reducing the amount of guns that are on our streets, taking out of circulation people who have proven they create a risk to the safety of the public."
Roth explains that Slay is hoping to solicit feedback from city residents in the coming weeks in advance of a September 16 meeting of the judicial conference, which includes all the judges of the circuit court.
At this meeting, the mayor says, judges are expected to decide whther to adopt and implement the armed offender docket. Many judges favor the idea, but not all of them, Slay says.
Continue for more of our interview with Eddie Roth and for the full Facebook post from Slay.
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