Re-Launch of Court Watch Program

August 27, 2015 · Posted in Eye on Midtown 

In a nutshell:

  • Detailed general information on our court watch initiative at http://www.midtownponce.org/misc/court-watch
  • Just let us know in reply to this eblast that you would like to be on the notification list for key court hearing dates.
  • Details on the six cases submitted to the DA’s office listed below

gavel1. Meeting with our community prosecutor

Earlier this week we met with Keith Lamar, our current Zone 5 Prosecutor. We presented six cases of interest to us:

  • four cases involving robbery suspects
  • two more long-standing offenders (burglary) whom we have both court watched in the past and who currently have new cases.

The six cases are listed below. We were very pleased with the attention given in the cases, and received some recommendations on how to prioritize these cases. These cases will be closely monitored by us and by our community prosecutors. Our feeling is that Midtown has a lot of support and interest from the Fulton County DA’s office via our community prosecutor. Currently, Keith Lamar is acting as community prosecutor for both zones 5 and 6. A new community prosecutor is coming on board very soon to take over Zone 5 (our zone), and we will be meeting with her at some point. During the transition period Mr. Lamar will work closely with us in dealing with the six cases we have presented to him. In other words, we are now moving full force ahead with the court watch program.

2. The court program – what it is:

The website of the Fulton County District Attorney’s office sums it up best: One of the most successful and recognizable Fulton County Community Prosecution initiatives is the Citizens’ CourtWatch program. Often dubbed the ‘eyes and ears’ of the community in court, CourtWatch was created by District Attorney Howard as a vehicle to engage average citizens in the criminal justice system. As Community Prosecutors track cases involving repeat offenders and those of general interest to the community, CourtWatchers are encouraged to attend court proceedings and, when deemed appropriate by the Court, offer perspective regarding the impact a defendant’s criminal activity has on a community. We have revised our general information page on the court watch program at http://www.midtownponce.org/misc/court-watch

3. What we now need from neighborhood folks:

If you are at least sometimes available in the mornings, and can go with us to a court hearing, then we would like to add you to a special email distribution list for court watch purposes. When a case arises, we will then send out a detailed case briefing, work out carpooling arrangements, and other logistical details. While a pool of about 20-30 potential participants would be optimal, we normally only need a handful of volunteers to actually go to a hearing. One person knowledgeable about the case in question and its defendant(s) will be designated a spokesperson for the group (normally an MPSA board member). Sometimes multiple neighborhood groups are involved with a court watch case, as we often share many of the same criminals with other nearby places.

Hearings very often come up on very short notice, and in many cases it may even come in the late afternoon for a hearing the very next morning. We will monitor dates through the Superior Court website, but last minute changes do happen. We then call upon the court watch volunteer list for a handful of attendees for the hearing, and quickly work out carpooling arrangements, provide a detailed briefing on the case, etc. This is very much a hit-or-miss deal – sometimes we can make it, sometimes not. The larger our pool of volunteers, the more likely we will “hit.” Historically, we typically attended one or two hearings per month and many did not result in a conviction on that day. Sometimes defendants back off of a guilty plea when they learn that court watch attendees are in the gallery, but even when that happens we know we are getting somewhere with a clear message that folks will take a strong stance against those bringing criminal activity to our neighborhood. But when they do take a plea, or a guilty verdict is handed down, then we want to be ready to spring into action.

4. The cases we submitted (each linked to its own case briefing sheet):

  • Case 1: Cedric Tramel MITCHELL, suspect in incident in which victim was robbed with pepper spray – Details in Case briefing
  • Case 2: Robert WILLIAMSON – suspect in robbery on 10th Street – Details in Case briefing
  • Case 3: Demetrius Jerome FARRELL, Gary Darrell FARRELL, Teairra Necole LOCKETT, Tiambra Alexis SMITH, and a juvenile arrested after a street robbery at Argonne & 7th – Details in Case briefing
  • Case 4: Sheridan Chase WHITE and another suspect under active warrant (we will name once arrested) in carjacking incident – Details in Case briefing
  • Case 5: Timothy KOZAK – An old Court Watch/Parole Watch offender for us who has reoffended. He is of interest to other neighborhoods too – Details in Case briefing
  • Case 6: Andrew ARNETT – another long-standing offender among our court watch/parole watch cases. – Details in Case briefing
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