Former AG defends nolle use
Former Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said yesterday the team of professionals at the Office of the Attorney General should be commended for their competence, but defended her use of nolles under Christie administration as a necessary tool to address the extreme backlog of judicial matters.
She was responding to Attorney General Carl Bethel, who highlighted a three-fold decrease in the issuance of nolles in 2017.
“I want to highlight that a nolle-prosequi is a discontinuance of an action,” said Maynard-Gibson when asked to respond to Bethel’s suggestion that his predecessor abused the power.
He revealed that 31 nolles were issued in 2017, compared to the 96 issued the previous year.
Bethel said the decrease was indicative of a policy to use nolles more sparingly.
Maynard-Gibson continued, “For the backlog, the tremendous backlog that existed to be brought into line with what is reasonable as happened in the past – during my tenure as AG – the team and I worked very hard to accomplish that.
“One of the ways of accomplishing that was the use of the nolle, discontinuing an action.
“I want people to recognize what the director of public prosecutions (DPP) said and what I have said and what other AGs have said.
“And that is that nolles are used only where there is a problem with the evidence or there is a constitutional issue which affects the matter at hand.”
More than 1,000 cases before the court make up the backlog.
Among them, are cases of rape, murder, armed robbery and attempted murder.
Some of them have been in the system more than eight years.
Maynard-Gibson said in the case of an alleged rape that occurred eight years ago, for instance, the victim had no desire to proceed.
“You don’t have witnesses, [or there’s] a problem with the evidence, we discontinue the action,” she said.
“A murder, for example, where a key witness may have died, you discontinue the action.
“There were many, many circumstances like that which led to the recommendation. I also said, and AGs have said and this AG has said, the current AG, the attorney generals act on advice.
“If advice came from the legal experts in the AG’s office, who have reviewed the file – the primary expert is the DPP – that the matter should be discontinued for one of those reasons, it would be very odd for an AG not to follow that advice.
“So, let me say, I would not want to presuppose what the DPP is going to do.
“Right now the power to issue a nolle is still in the hands of the AG.
“The law has been passed to create the independent DPP, and I don’t want to presuppose what the DPP is going to do in relation to discontinuations. I would like us to allow him make up his own mind. I can say that he is extremely component. Let him make up his own mind how he is going to pursue the matter, all the matters that are before him.”