State attorneys do not compile case statistics in a uniform manner

Published: Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 7:07 p.m.

About 43 percent of cases filed each year by the Alachua County Sheriff's Office and Gainesville Police Department are eventually dropped by 8th Circuit State Attorney Bill Cervone, records show.

But it's impossible to know where that percentage stands relative to other circuits because Florida's state attorneys do not compile their statistics in a uniform manner. The various circuits use different categories than are used in the 8th — which encompasses six counties, including Alachua. Others put a note in the case file explaining why a case was dropped, but do not code that into a database accessible by a computer.

Attempts by The Sun to get comparable data revealed that no state agency or organization — such as the Florida Association of Prosecuting Attorneys — keeps track of the data.

“There are 22 judicial circuits, and each state attorney is independent of each other. Each office operates differently than the other office. Everybody has a different coding system,” said Greg Marcille, 1st Circuit chief assistant state attorney in Pensacola.

Like others interviewed by The Sun, Marcille said the numbers cited by Cervone's office seem to be in line with other circuits.

“Generally speaking, I would say the 8th Circuit is probably relatively consistent with other offices across the state in cases being dismissed on either the facts of the case or the cases changing during the course of the prosecution,” he said.

Amy Lee, unit supervisor for the 2nd Circuit in Tallahassee, said that in her district, either State Attorney Willie Meggs or division chiefs review all cases.

“Mr. Meggs reviews every felony dismissal in our office,” she said. “He looks over them to find out why they were dismissed and those kinds of things — if we have a problem with a certain law enforcement officer or some other issue that needs to be dealt with.

“We have a county court chief who reviews all of the county court dismissals just to keep an eye on things to make sure nothing is out of balance. We don't run a lot of numbers, but the files are reviewed by division chiefs.”

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