Fulton judge defends release of trooper shooting suspect
By JIM WALLS
A Fulton County judge had no choice last month but to release the man who allegedly shot and killed State Trooper Chadwick LeCroy a couple weeks later, the county’s chief judge said tonight.
Chief Judge Cynthia D. Wright wrote in a letter to Fulton County citizens:
“When [Gregory] Favors was released on December 13, 2010 it was not the result of judicial whim or an adherence to some arbitrary self-imposed rule. Rather, he was released because the judges and courts of this community have a duty to uphold the rule of law and comply with its requirements.”
Favors, charged with LeCroy’s Dec. 27 murder after a traffic stop, had been jailed Dec. 10 for breaking into a car and cocaine possession. But Atlanta police did not subsequently obtain a warrant on the charges and did not appear at a Dec. 13 magistrate’s court hearing to explain why he’d been arrested.
“To determine probable cause, a magistrate must have something to review – either a warrant or the testimony of an arresting officer,” the judge wrote.
The magistrate could not hold Favors any longer without some evidence to support the charges, Wright wrote. Both state and federal courts guarantee jailed defendants a court hearing within 48 hours of their arrest.
Wright also deflected criticism of the court’s so-called “rocket docket,” which police and prosecutors have blamed for light sentences that kept Favors on the street on earlier charges:
“That suggestion reflects the reality that when a tragedy occurs, people want explanations. Hindsight is often the first tool reached for in an effort to provide an easy answer.
Fulton County, like many urban courts across the country, has developed a two-tiered system for adjudicating criminal cases. Less complex cases involving non-violent offenses are heard more quickly than more complex cases. Mr. Favors at the time of his arrest was not under indictment in a non-complex case. His release had therefore nothing to do with that program.
It is true that Mr. Favors had previous matters which were heard in Fulton County. Those cases were heard and sentences imposed based upon the facts and circumstances presented to the court at the time those decisions were made. Responsibility for the decisions rest with the decision makers.”