CORRECTION: After publication of this report, 10 On Your Side became aware of potential discrepancies in the data. We have received additional data. We are reviewing both sets of data for accuracy and will update this report with our findings.
CLARRIFICATION: When it comes to weapon charges, data shows that there have been 775 in Norfolk this year through August 26. 432 of them have “not been processed.” Of the remaining 343, 155 or 45% are guilty. About 43% nolle Prosequi.
NORFOLK, VA. (WAVY) – 10 On Your Side has been digging into the number of convictions this year in crimes committed in Norfolk and now is investigating whether too many criminals are being set free.
Criminal cases for the city are entered into the system based on indictments created by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. The Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk’s Office then takes the last case entry to determine case disposition.
Data compiled by the Clerk’s Office shows that in murder cases alone, there was only a 41 percent conviction rate this year, 31 percent of cases were set aside, and 13 percent were dismissed.
Nathan Chapman was co-council for Ahmad Watson whose murder case was dismissed with prejudice. Watson’s case was considered a lost case for the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
“There were a lot of issues that we had with the Commonwealth’s case and the attorneys themselves,” Chapman explained.
According to data, through the end of October in the city of Norfolk, 75 murder cases ended with a guilty verdict, which is only 41 percent of the cases. 31% of the cases were Nolle Prosequi meaning the suspect is free to leave, but he could be re-charged.
When 10 On Your Side asked Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi why the guilty verdict is so low, he said he doesn’t believe those numbers are accurate.
“First of all, I don’t think those numbers are correct,” Fatehi said.
We then asked Fatehi why so many of the cases were Nolle Prosequi, to which he again answered “I don’t think those numbers are right.”
Defense Attorney Eric Korslund disagrees with Fatehi and says that the data is a cause for concern.
“These statistics are alarming they are concerning. I do not know what is going on or what contributes to them,” Korslund said.
Korslund says he tries cases in all localities but would prefer trying cases in Norfolk based on the statistics from the Clerk’s office.
“If I had my preference, I would probably choose Norfolk with those numbers.”
When it comes to weapon charges, data shows that there have been 775 in Norfolk this year through August 26. 432 of them have “not been processed.” Of the remaining 343, 155 or 45% are guilty. About 43% nolle Prosequi.
Fatehi says that staffing is also an issue and says that he only has 37 prosecutors. Chapman says there is a trickle-down to that.
“Sometimes it’s harder for them to keep up with the workload, so prosecutors will make us an offer that is more appealing than they ordinally would be,” Chapman said.
In the end, Fatehi absolutely stands by his team, and he dismisses any suggestion that inexperience has led to any issues in his office or in the courtroom.