Marion County Criminal Justice Equation Almost Balances

Jimplecute New Editor

SHOOTING SCENE: Yellow police tape marks off the crime scene where two Jefferson teens were shot June 26 as officers collect evidence. Two alleged assailants have plead guilty in the incident in district court. The victims have reportedly recovered. The shootings were part of the crime statistics for 2018 in Marion County as two of the six cases of assault with a deadly weapon filed in district court. According to investigators, the gun play was part of a dispute over a girlfriend. 

If criminal justice in Marion County were a business, it would have slightly more income than out-go, according to district court records. But that would not necessarily be a good thing. In 2018, 123 cases were filed in the district courts serving Marion County.

That number includes seven sealed indictment which have yet to be served. During that same 12 months, 118 cases were resolved.

District Clerk Susan Anderson said she opens a case folder when an indictment is returned by the grand jury or the defendant waives his right to have the matter heard by the grand jury.

“The number of new cases does not include 35 cases where there was a motion to revoke probation,” Anderson explained.

District records indicate 39 percent of the cases adjudicated in 2018 resulted in probation, amounting to 46 cases.

“We see a lot of the same people,” District Attorney Angela Smoak agreed. While the number of new cases appeared high last year, Anderson found that it was not a record. In 2016, 133 cases were filed. The total for 2017 was 107 and only 76 in 2015.

Smoak also pointed out another wrinkle in the cases she handles. While murder charges against Sandy Duncan for the shooting death of his cousin Danny Duncan on a frog-gigging trip and the murder charge against Prentiss Smith II for the death of Frederick Thomas top the list of cases filed, indictments relating to illicit drug offenses have significantly more numbers.

Anderson’s records show 24 cases opened last year were for felony drug charges, ranging from possession of a controlled substance, manufacturing or delivery of a controlled substance and charges relating to marijuana.

“Many of the other charges should also be considered drug related,” Smoak said. “If they burgled a house in order to get money to buy drugs, is it a burglary or a drug case? ”Burglaries do make a significant number in Marion County.

Ten burglary of a building and 15 burglary of a habitation indictments were returned by the grand jury. Other charges that may also be viewed as part of the drug problem could be two indictments for injury to a child or elderly person, two counts of indecency with a child (sexual contact) and eight cases of family violence.

Other crimes drawing multiple offenders include six cases of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, five charges of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, six cases of a sex offender’s duty to register, three counts of criminal negligence (abandoning a child), three cases of evading arrest with a motor vehicle, three charges of driving while intoxicated (third or more offense) and eight cases of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

Cases opened in 2018 also included two cases of harassment of a public servant, five charges of theft of a firearm, two cases of credit or debit card abuse, as well as charges for theft, bail jumping and an attack by a dog causing serious bodily injury.

Of the 13 charges that were dismissed in 2018, one was for a felony indictment for possession of marijuana returned in 2001. In the 276th Judicial District Court and in the 115th Judicial District Court, 30 probation cases were revoked.

Two defendants died before their case came to trial. Four completed their probation and two completed their community service.In 2018, 38 cases resulted in convictions. Deferred adjudication was granted in 27 cases.


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