Defendant, charged with robbery in the first degree and related offenses, moves for a dismissal of the indictment and for other forms of relief on the ground of discriminatory prosecution in that he is being prosecuted as a major offender by the Bronx District Attorney. The major offense program, which has been operating in Bronx County since July 2, 1973, with the financial assistance of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, is basically a program of accelerated prosecution. It is directed towards the perpetrator of the serious crime and the repeat offender. Its goal is to insure swift and certain justice for such malefactor.
As part of the program, the Bronx District Attorney’s office instituted a system of screening procedures which identifies those cases in which the crime is particularly heinous or the alleged offender is a serious recidivist. Those cases are then evaluated by the major offense bureau for selective prosecution. The criminal prosecution of major offense cases is marked by limited plea bargaining, full disclosure to defense counsel, immediate and thorough case preparation, and the assignment of a single assistant district attorney to handle a given case through all stages, from inception to conclusion.
A Bronx County Criminal lawyer said that in an evaluation of the bureau’s performance in the first three years of its existence, it was found that the median time between arrest and case disposition was 97 days compared to a median time of 400 days for all other felony cases prosecuted by the Bronx District Attorney. A comparison between major offense cases and a select group of similar cases from the caseload of the Bronx District Attorney’s Supreme Court bureau shows an overall conviction rate of 96% for the former and 84% for the latter; after trial, the conviction rate was 92% for the former and 52% for the latter. In cases prosecuted by the major offense bureau, 94% of those convicted were incarcerated as opposed to 79% in the comparison group cases. A survey of dispositions in a typical year since the program’s inauguration shows that the average maximum sentence for a defendant prosecuted by the major offense bureau is 10 years. In the comparison group the average maximum is 3.5 years.