New court set to tackle gun violations; It opens next month; tougher sentences a goal


A court will open next month to hear cases of illegal gun possession, which Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy hopes will mean tougher punishment for gun-toting criminals.

Jessamy said yesterday that the so-called "gun court" will operate one day a week in the city's two District Courthouses on North and Wabash avenues. The court is expected to begin May 2.

"I hope that we get better sentences in gun cases," Jessamy said yesterday. In the past, "sometimes things fell through the cracks. This way, hopefully they won't."

The creation of a specialized court is not new. Baltimore has a domestic violence court, a housing court and a rent court, among others. But the new gun court signals a crackdown on violent criminals in the city, which has been criticized for its high homicide rate.

In January, The Sun published an analysis of thousands of court records that revealed few violent offenders receive tough penalties for their crimes.

Many defendants were not brought to trial, mainly because of witness or evidence problems.

After the article ran, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend gave Jessamy about $1 million to combat violent offenders. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, who ran on a promise to reduce crime, gave Jessamy $1.7 million more to improve technology and to reform the system to give prosecutors more time to focus on serious cases of violence.

Jessamy said the new money allows her to focus on violent offenders.

"We will attempt to get the maximum possible sentence in cases involving handguns because we think these cases are our priority cases," Jessamy said. "The only reason we hadn't done it before is because we couldn't afford it."

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