The District Attorney of Bronx County is charged by statute to prosecute diligently and fairly every crime committed by an adult within his jurisdiction (County Law § 700, et seq.). He is an agent of the People, independent of the judiciary. Of necessity, he must be free to allocate his resources, in terms of manpower and finances, to discharge the duties of his office to the best of his ability. That includes the right to focus greater attention upon the prosecution of those charged with serious crimes and the career criminal.
The general rule in this state is that the grand jury has the power to investigate and indict regardless of what has occurred before the magistrate and regardless of whether the magistrate has held or discharged the prisoner or still has the matter pending, or of whether there has ever been such a preliminary hearing. A defendant has no constitutional or statutory right to a preliminary hearing as a condition precedent to a valid indictment.
In Bronx County, as the program is currently being implemented, there are two trial parts set aside solely for the disposition of major offender cases. There are available, of course, other parts to which the overflow of these cases may be sent for trial. The judges presiding in parts designated for hearing major offense robbery cases are aware that the defendants before them are labelled as major offenders by reason of either a record of recidivism or the serious nature of the crime charged. Parenthetically, it should be noted that the jurors do not know that the defendant is being prosecuted as a major offender. The trial part handling major offender cases is numbered as are all trial parts in Bronx County. No designation other than number identifies the courtroom. The indictment bears no special marking. The only question therefore which arises is whether the judge’s knowledge of the defendant’s background prejudices the defendant’s right to a fair trial so as to be constitutionally impermissible.