Report: nearly half of felony cases dropped
Guam - Over the weekend, a report was released on the criminal justice system that showed while the Guam Police Department has been meeting its mission to arrest criminals, it's what has happened afterwards that is more surprising.
In the last four years, almost half the charges brought against murderers, child abusers, rapists and other felons were dismissed. This is just a hint of the findings released by the Bureau of Budget & Management Research Through data provided by the Unified Courts of Guam and GPD. "The report basically talks about the criminals and the criminals going through the judiciary system that process," explained BBMR director John Rios. He says in the period between 2010 and 2014, over 42% of all criminal misdemeanor charges were also dismissed against criminals like robbers, thieves, vandals and even abusive spouses.
"And a lot of this we attribute that the Attorney General's Office has not been fully funded the amount of resources that's provided to the Attorney General's Office does not give them enough tools or prosecutors here in this case, to address these crimes," he said.
Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas says in the last several years, his office's caseload per prosecutor is at least twice the amount that a prosecutor in other jurisdictions should be handling. "But despite that our prosecutors are doing the hard work that they need to do not just our prosecutors but our investigators, process servers and our secretaries," he said.
He adds his prosecutors have been the busiest they've been in the last year or so jumping from one closing argument to immediately going into jury selection and trial for the next. "To say that we're not doing the work is inaccurate I think we are doing the work we could always use more that's always a dream of ours that is why we make the case for it every year," he said.
Despite being greatly burdened, Chief Prosecutor Basil O'Mallan says don't think the AG's Office is going to blink in prosecuting cases as it has prioritized and succeeded with some of the most serious and high-profile cases from the Blue House Lounge case, the Nimitz Hill home invasion, and the Crown Bakery case.
"Yes, I need more staff but at the same token I want to thank the legislature because last year they listened to us and they gave us a line item in the budget for an additional two prosecutors an additional investigators and more staff," he said.
BBMR's analysis shows that the AG's Office filed 8,340 criminal felony and misdemeanor cases since 2010 with only 19 prosecutors to follow these cases. Rios says BBMR has by law released one-twelfth the AG's budget each month however the major issue is the AG is underfunded resulting in a lack of prosecutors and ultimately has allowed criminals to roam free to commit more crimes. But it's not just the AG's Office the report cites but the Department of Corrections as well.
"If you look at the number of inmates in there, it's over 716 inmates that are in there so you know there's an overcrowding so a need for a new facility is there," he said.
The findings show that even if the AG succeeded in prosecuting these criminals, there would not have been room for their remand.
Rios meanwhile hopes lawmakers take the data into consideration and provide the ways and means to the AG and DOC to make their roles in the criminal justice system sustainable.