This week we bring you two Weekend Reads.
Keith Alexander has a profile of Magistrate Judge Karen Howze in this weekend’s Washington Post. Howze is the first judge most defendants see at DC Superior Court and she is responsible for making the initial determination of if there is enough evidence to pursue the charge against the person.
Life inside the District’s arraignment court, known as Courtroom C-10 in the courthouse’s lower level, can be chaotic, sometimes resembling a manufacturing line where the parts are people’s lives. Howze, a 61-year-old aspiring-nun-turned-journalist-turned-child-welfare-attorney-turned-judge, tries to put them in place. The journey seems natural to a woman who joined a convent at 17 to “serve God and serve people.” Now, instead of a nun’s habit, she dons a judge’s robe.
Howze’s influence is substantial. She’s often the first judge to hear details of some of the most serious allegations filed in the District. She sees many defendants soon after they are charged, deciding whether they should be released or held until their next hearing or perhaps sent to drug or mental-health treatment. Her rulings can have an immediate effect — even if a defendant’s trial is months away.
Homicide Watch covered the process of trying a murder case at the end of December, in the report Waiting: A Year in DC Courts.
Every murder case begins, publicly, when a suspect is presented with a charge.
At DC Superior Court, this happens in Courtroom C-10, a large room on the lowest floor of the courthouse. A gallery of benches face the judge, who sits at the top of a three-tiered dais.
Suspects are brought in from the judge’s left. Some wear bright orange jail jumpsuits, others are still dressed in the clothes they were arrested in. All are shackled at their hands and feet.
Nearly every suspect scans the audience for family and friends as they are brought before the judge.
Over the last 15 months, I’ve followed the cases of 109 defendants accused of murder in DC.
Only one case has gone to trial. Eighteen people have pleaded guilty, and eight of them have been sentenced. The vast majority of defendants are spending the new year at DC Jail where they are waiting for a grand jury to decide whether or not to charge them with a crime.
Today’s second Weekend Read comes from Paul Wagner at Fox5. Wagner reported this week on the 2009 murder of Davonta Artis.
D.C. police are asking for help in locating two men wanted in connection with the 2009 murder of Davonta Artis, a 15-year-old boy caught in the cross fire of a neighborhood gun fight.
Police have charged Antonio Barnes and Earl Jackson with taking part in the gunfight, but have so far been unable to find them.
Davonta Artis was an innocent bystander caught in the middle of a neighborhood feud, shot and killed when multiple gunmen opened fire on each other in October of 2009.
Watch Wagner’s story here: