Thursday, January 3, 2008

Red Stamp to correct clerical error

How'd you like to face a trial on rape charges and then find out it was a clerical error?

That's what has happened to Jessie Jones Jr. of Akron. He recently had a pre-trial hearing for his upcoming felony case, which was originally charged as Rape and Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a minor by Akron Police.

Turns out ... the grand jury actually returned a No Bill when the evidence was presented in November. In other words, the grand jury didn't feel there was enough evidence to warrant a trial.

Still .. a secretary mistook the No Bill as an actual indictment and forwarded criminal charges to prosecutors and the jury foreman who signed off of them like any other case. Presto: Jones was facing serious prison time.

Whoops!

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh has now dropped the charges and called the mistake "regrettable". I spoke with her at length this afternoon, and she seemed deeply upset by it. She told me that this shouldn't have happened, and thank goodness the error was caught now before the case actually reached a trial.

Walsh said the office has invested in some giant red stamps so that "No Bill" can be blasted on future cases that come back that way. She said that last year, more than 3,000 cases resulted in indictments versus 140 No Bills.

I'm sure critics will use this mistake as ammo against Walsh .. but seeing how she wasn't in the room at the time and both an assistant prosecutor and the grand jury foreman should have caught it when the documents were in their hands, it sounds like her argument of human error will have some validity. Still, Walsh knows she'll take a political hit for it.

Obviously, the case would be much more destructive had Jones been tried and the No Bill error not come out until after the fact.

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