Christmas came early last month for a man accused of trying to kill a police officer. On Dec. 6, State Supreme Court Justice Laura Blackburne ruled that William Hodges had been denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial.
Hodges, 31, of Jamaica, was accused of shooting Officer David Gonzalez on Nov. 12, 1999 with the officer's gun after he responded to a call about a domestic disturbance. The trial was delayed on numerous occasions following motions that came from both the prosecution and the defense.
The public has good reason to question this decision. Judge Blackburne and the mother of the defendant are reportedly both members of the Jamaica branch of the NAACP. If that's the case, it seems to us that Blackburne should have recused herself. Judges must aggressively avoid even the appearance of improper influence.
But beyond the merits of this individual case, this controversy calls into question the process for electing judges. Blackburne's husband is a powerful member of the Queens Democratic Party. The party bosses decide who will run for judge on the party line and the public rubber stamps their choice on Election Day.
That's how a disgraced city official gets to be a judge. And that's how a man who may have shot a cop goes free.
©2003 Community News Group
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