Hila Gristol head of prosecutorial oversight body.
(photo credit: COURTESY HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE)
The new body overseeing the prosecution published a harsh report on Sunday with data that the prosecution has taken too long to close cases, in one case taking six years.
Despite the data, which, on its face, was quite damning, the prosecution responded with a robust defense, arguing that the oversight body ignored strategic considerations and mechanically and selectively analyzed the data it collected.
The new oversight body is headed by Hila Gerstl, a former top judge. The report published Sunday is only the second report filed by her new department, and the first report on recurring issues, such as how long it takes the prosecution to close cases.
Gerstl’s department started functioning fully around one year ago, but the report focuses mainly on the years 2012-2013, with a sprinkling of reviewing 2014 cases and developments.
The report was filed despite a boycott of the report and its investigators by rank and file prosecutors, with only top prosecutorial division heads cooperating and responding in detail.
The report reviews the work of seven different district attorneys offices, including 500 closed cases.
In a more in-depth analysis of a selection of around 150 cases with multiple suspects, or 23.7 percent of the full list of closed cases, the average length of time between when the prosecution filed an indictment against a suspect to when it closed cases against other suspects was 328 days.
The report also says there were many cases which were left open or where suspects were not notified that their case had been closed for multiple years.
In one glaring case, a prosecutor had recommended closing a case in 2005, but the case was not closed and the suspect was not notified until 2012.
The prosecution said that much of the criticism relates back to 2012 and is outdated.
It criticized the report for unsystematically weaving in some 2014 cases to make it seem like the same 2012 problems were present and ongoing, without noting the significant changes that the prosecution has made.
The prosecution also noted that it is understaffed, overworked and constantly having to cope with new technological, social and bureaucratic cross-government changes which slow down its response time, and for which it cannot be blamed.
Most importantly, the prosecution said that the report viewed the data in a vacuum and did not bother to ask why the prosecution delayed closing certain cases.
Had it asked such questions, the prosecution said, the report would have seen that sometimes prosecutors purposely kept aspects of cases open for leverage or while evidence was continually collected, which it called legitimate tactics.
Still, the report makes a number of systemic recommendations that it says could improve the delay.
One recommendation is to have the same prosecutor who orders a case closed be responsible for notifying the suspect, so there is less bureaucracy and more investment in earlier notification of suspects.
The prosecution called the recommendations out of touch and unrealistic.