Montgomery County, Maryland’s, top prosecutor is calling for a two-year study to examine the operations of the county’s state’s attorney’s office.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said he still recalls a statistic once told to him years ago by former Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals Robert Bell.
“If a person was of color, and they came into the criminal justice system, roughly 30% of them thought they were going to get a fair shake … I thought that was an indictment of the system. It is an indictment of the system!” McCarthy said.
That’s one of the reasons he is calling for the study conducted by outside analysts.
McCarthy has hired Melba Pearson, an attorney with the Center for the Administration of Justice at Florida International University, and Brian D. Johnson, a professor of criminology at the University of Maryland, to conduct the study.
Speaking at a news conference inside the Montgomery County Circuit Courthouse in Rockville, Pearson told reporters, “We hope to accomplish meaningful work and leave the residents of Montgomery County with another tool to be able to push for a positive change in their communities.”
McCarthy said the examination into the operations of his office is the right thing to do.
“This community wants it, and I think they deserve transparency,” McCarthy said, adding that he has had people asking for the kind of data Pearson and Johnson will be providing.
On whether the county needs to improve in the area of equity, McCarthy said the issue is not isolated to Montgomery County.
“I think America needs to do better. It’s not a Montgomery County issue, it’s a national issue,” McCarthy said.
He added that issues of bias and discrimination are found outside the courthouse.
“You know, socioeconomic inequalities that are much further downstream play themselves out in this building,” he said. “This is my world,” he said, pointing toward the building. “This is where we can make a difference, and so we’re going to try to do that.”
McCarthy estimates the study would cost $250,000 a year, for a total of $500,000. His office is looking into finding grant money to fund it.
“We’re going to have a product at the end that will be a public facing dashboard. It will reside most likely on the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s website,” McCarthy said.