DA: Charlotte Criminal Justice System Smaller Than In Comparable Cities

Jul 9, 2019

Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather says the criminal justice system in Charlotte is inadequate for a city its size. 

Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather, seen here in a file photo, says the local criminal justice system is smaller than those of cities similar in size to Charlotte.
Credit DANIEL COSTON / WFAE

Speaking to City Council members Monday, Merriweather said his office has 83 assistant district attorneys, while other comparable cities have about 115. Charlotte's the 16th largest city in the United States, and Mecklenburg County has more than 1 million residents.

Merriweather's office has tried eight murder cases this year, but that 215 remain.

But Merriweather says just increasing the number of prosecutors won't be enough to solve the problem.

"For some reason we still have the number of judges dedicated to criminal court that we had 25, 30 years ago," Merriweather said. "If the state were to give me or someone else were to give me another 30 prosecutors, I’ve got to figure out a place to put them somewhere, and I’ve got to make sure they have places to try those cases."

Charlotte leaders are grappling with a rising violent crime rate. As of Tuesday, there have been 60 homicides so far this year, compared with 58 in all last year. 

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney has been critical of a new bail policy he says might be contributing to the increase in violent crime, but he told council members Monday night that he’s spoken with the architect of that policy and believes progress is being made to keep violent offenders behind bars.