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Charlotte Talks: Why Are Gun Charges So Often Dismissed In Mecklenburg County?

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A new investigation offers some clues into the city's homicide problem.  Reporters found that people arrested on weapons charges rarely face any real punishment.  Prosecutors here dismiss the majority of weapons charges.  That often leads to suspects committing more severe crimes.  We hear more from the journalists who reported the story and from the DA and a long-time prosecutor.

The city of Charlotte has a homicide problem and the numbers are rising fast. But the reasons for this have been difficult to determine so The Charlotte Observer launched an investigative series called Dismissed.

Why that title? Because, while digging into the data, they discovered people in Mecklenburg County facing weapons charges rarely face any real punishment. Most often, weapons charges are dropped leading many of those suspects to commit even worse crimes down the road.

Why is this happening? Is justice being served? We talk to two of the reporters on this story and to District Attorney Spencer Merriweather and a long-time prosecutor.


Ames Alexander, investigative reporter for The Charlotte Observer. He has reported the paper’s four-part Dismissed series.

Gavin Off, data reporter for The Charlotte Observer. He has reported the paper’s four-part Dismissed series.

Spencer Merriweather, Mecklenburg County District Attorney

Stephen Ward, a former longtime Mecklenburg County prosecutor. He now teaches law and criminal justice at Belmont Abbey College.

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Erin Keever is Senior Producer of WFAE's Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. She has been with the show since joining the station in 2006. She's a native Charlottean.