BALTIMORE (WJZ) — With murders in Baltimore surging, city judges say they want to stay out of politics and will not attend the closed-door gathering with the governor and other key players in the crime fight.
WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren has a closer look at the judge’s reasons and the governor’s blunt response.
Both the governor and mayor don’t like that the judges aren’t attending, but the meeting is going to happen anyway at the ‘all hands on deck’ gathering to try to get a handle on violence.
The number of murders in Baltimore is on pace to break a record. Among the victims a 15- year-old, Jeffrey Quick, 97- year-old Wadell Tate, and a father of 12, Derek Ford.
Governor Hogan sees it as an emergency and wants to meet personally and privately with members of the criminal justice coordinating council at his Baltimore office next week.
In a letter, judges on the council refused. The chief judge wrote that they shall not be swayed by public clamor or fear of criticism.
“Given such limitations, participation by members of the judicial branch in the meeting you are hosting on August 29 would not be appropriate,” says Maryland Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera.
“It’s the judges who are not giving out tough enough sentences,” says Governor Larry Hogan.
The governor has been a critic of light sentences for repeat gun offenders.
“If somebody commits a felony in Baltimore City with a gun, they should be in jail, and not 60 percent of them shouldn’t be back out the next day to do it again,” he says.
Hogan lashed out at the judges’ decision in his own letter, saying:
“It would be disappointing and frankly, unacceptable for these judicial members of the Council to refuse to participate at what is a critically important moment for Baltimore City.”
Mayor Pugh agrees.
“I would think if the governor asks for that conversation you would want to have it. I’m seeing a few judges and they agree with a lot of the things we’re trying to do.”
Pugh will attend along with State’s Attorney Marlin Mosby.
“I look forward to continuing the conversation with the governor and the mayor around decreasing crime in Baltimore City. I think it’s really important,” she says.
When asked if she had any thought on the judges not attending, “no not one way or the other,” she tells WJZ.
The governor wants the meeting to be closed to the media and the public, but that may violate the council’s charter. It’s supposed to happen next Tuesday morning.
In his letter, the governor notes judges regularly attend these meetings and wonders why they’re objecting now.