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In just more than a month, a new Commonwealth’s Attorney will be prosecuting felony cases in Hardin Circuit Court. Incoming felony prosecutor Shane Young currently works in Hardin County Attorney Jenny Oldham’s office.
Young, who ran unopposed, will take office Jan. 1. Current Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Shaw did not attempt re-election and completes his second six-year term Dec. 31.
With the exception of more complex cases such as those involving rape or murder, Young said he would like to conclude cases within 120 days of arraignment in Hardin Circuit Court.
“The whole goal is to get everybody as efficiently and fairly through the process without compromising justice,” he said.
Some ways Young plans to move defendants through the system more efficiently, he said, are by re-implementing the rocket docket program and increasing the number of direct indictments — or felony cases presented directly to the grand jury.
Norman Chaffins, spokesman for Kentucky State Police Post 4, said some cases, especially those involving sexual abuse, benefit from the direct indictment approach because it cuts down on the amount of time the victim and investigator spend in court hearings.
The rocket docket expedites cases, allowing defendants to enter early guilty pleas and bypass court hearings and grand jury review. Young estimates it shaves about eight months off a defendant’s time in the court system.
Started by Shaw, the rocket docket was eliminated in 2009 after county funding for the the program was cut in half.
According to Young, it will return on a voluntary basis the first or second week in January. The rocket docket is not open to cases involving violent crimes or child victims.
Asked how he intends to bring rocket docket back to circuit court, Young said, “by going to court.” He insists the program will return “no matter what.”
“I think it’s that important,” he said. “If I can get some funding, that would be great. But I’m not tying it to that.”
Young added, “It benefits everybody involved. It makes a lighter docket. It takes people and moves them through the system quicker.”
Eric Carr, a current assistant commonwealth’s attorney who joined Young’s staff as a narcotics prosecutor, said the rocket docket especially should benefit offenders who have a drug addiction.
For someone with an addiction, he said sitting in jail is “not always the best thing.” Participation in the rocket docket, he said, expedites their case and allows them to enter treatment more quickly.
“They’ll go to treatment within two months of their arrest,” Carr said. “That’s going to really help the individual. It’s going to save the county money.”
Young said this outlook does not apply to those facing trafficking offenses. According to Young and Carr, defendants with a past in selling drugs also have a history of violent offenses.
“A dope dealer, I don’t have any sympathy for,” Young said. “You’re not a user. You’re not an addict. You’re just out there preying on people who do have problems.”
In addition to assigning an attorney to drug offenses, Young also plans for local attorney Teresa E. Logsdon to focus on cases of child abuse, an area he considers a priority.
Young said he wanted to have an attorney familiar with the agencies and police officers who work those types of cases to build relationships with investigators and develop a standard of protocol.
“Not that (these cases) haven’t been prosecuted in the past,” he said, “but we want to make sure that there’s enough attention placed on these that they get the credit they deserve. We also want to speed everything up.”
Logsdon, who primarily has worked in juvenile and family courts in the past, said her goal is to do what she can to lessen court appearances for child victims and work closely with the County Attorney’s Office on dependency, neglect and abuse cases that also involve criminal charges.
Officials with Radcliff and Elizabethtown police said having a prosecutor who largely focuses on those types of cases could foster positive relationships between the attorney and investigators assigned to that beat.
“They understand all the procedures those detectives have to go through to build a case,” said Bryce Shumate, spokesman for Radcliff Police Department.
Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the numbers
Hardin County is covered by the Ninth Circuit Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes felony crimes in the county.
Numbers represent indictments returned by the Hardin County grand jury:
Source: Hardin County Circuit Clerk’s Office