The State Attorney’s Office in Miami-Dade and Miami Gardens have partnered to create the Miami Gardens Gun Violence Reduction Initiative to quicken prosecutions.
The program will embed in Miami Gardens two prosecutors from the State Attorney’s Office to respond quicker to contact shootings, according to Miami Gardens and state officials. The cost will be paid for by Miami Gardens; the State Attorney’s Office will be responsible for the prosecutors.
Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the prosecutor for Florida’s 11th Circuit Court, and elected officials from Miami Gardens announced the addition of the two prosecutors during a press conference on Jan. 3.
“We’ll be adding two seasoned prosecutors to assist their police department in an area that’s been unfortunately terrorized by firearm violence,” Rundle said.
She said it’s always good to have prosecutors or lawyers on the scene to provide quick response to do things like get a search warrant.
“We don’t issue, we seek,” Rundle answered when asked how prosecutors get search warrants.
Judges issue search warrants. The presence of a prosecutor does not mean a police officer can search an individual’s body, vehicle, residence or place of business. Police officers need search warrants to search vehicles, residences or places of business, but only the individual can consent to a body search.
Contact shootings are ones in which the victim was shot but not killed. An aggravated assault could be pointing a firearm at an individual but not shooting.
Charges associated with contact shootings vary.
Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III affirmed the partnership is about having a prosecutable case and reducing the amount of time to convict someone who shot another person.
“It’s not only about arresting them; it’s about making an arrest in a case that’s prosecutable and sending the person away.
“This is about time; this is about reducing the amount of time. Hopefully, we can reduce the amount of time and create a safer environment. Because if you’re willing to shoot someone you’re willing to go to prison,” Gilbert said.
The partnership became effective through a memorandum of understanding established on Nov. 1, 2019. The memorandum reads the cost of the two prosecutors is $170,000 for Oct. 1, 2019 to Sept. 30, 2020.
In Miami Gardens, the combined number for the clearance rate of contact shootings and homicides is 65%, Chief Delma Noel-Pratt said at the press conference. Clearance rates are the number of cases police consider solved.
“We look at all the evidence that’s laid out in front of us - cameras, DNA,” Noel-Pratt said of how accuracy of convictions will be assured. “It’s about getting that information fresh.”
Predominantly Black community can experience higher rates of wrongful convictions.
The University of Michigan is one of three universities, which maintains a national registry of exonerations. The registry has data for crimes such as attempted murder, manslaughter and murder. There are 73 different exonerations in Florida of which 32 are for Black people, about 43%.
Researchers for The National Registry of Exonerations released a report in 2017, which described the state of wrongful convictions for Black communities.
“Innocent Black people are about seven times more likely to be convicted of murder than innocent white people,” researchers wrote. “A major cause of the high number of Black murder exonerations is the high homicide rate in the Black community…. Innocent defendants who are falsely convicted and exonerated do not contribute to this high homicide rate.”