AG Pryor cites three years of progress

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 13, 2000

Staff Writer

April 12, 2000 10 PM

BRUNDIDGE – Alabama’s chief prosecutor spoke on several issues during a visit with the Brundidge Rotary Club Wednesday.

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Attorney General Bill Pryor said he is proud of what his department has accomplished since he took office in January 1997.

"We’re doing a lot of great work," Pryor said of what he calls the "law firm of the people of Alabama."

During his speech, Pryor admitted the legal profession has a poor image and said the only way to change that is to "try to make the legal system work better."

In an effort to do just that, Pryor has special units that handle cases such as, white collar crime and public corruption, violent crimes, welfare fraud and issues of Constitutional rights.

According to Pryor having experts in those areas of law working on those cases has made a big difference in the number of people prosecuted successfully.

Public corruption is one area in which the Attorney General’s Office has made an impact.

"If you’re going to take on a case like that, you’d better be ready," Pryor said, adding the office has had "great success" prosecuting those in the public’s trust.

"It’s been very rewarding and successful work," Pryor said.

The Welfare Fraud Unit which has success stories including bringing in $600,000 during the last fiscal year.

"Not only does it steal from the taxpayers, but it’s stealing from those who are truly needy," Pryor said of those making claims to which they aren’t entitled.

At this time, Pryor is working to make further improvements in the legal system.

"I am an advocate of truth in sentencing," Pryor said of the "frustrating" sentences now handed down by judges who are following the laws set for them.

In an effort to make the legal system work better, Pryor has three goals: setting sentences similar to the crimes committed; punishing crimes in proportion to the severity of the crime and making sure the time served is consistent with the time imposed.

As it stands now, "a 15-year sentence isn’t a 15-year sentence," Pryor said, adding "similar crimes should receive similar punishments."

For example, a Class B felony carries a sentence of anywhere between two and 20 years and a judge in Troy could impose a different sentence than one in Birmingham.

"That kind of disparity doesn’t make sense," Pryor said, adding disparity shouldn’t be based on region, race or any other detail.

Working to streamline the death penalty imposed is another of Pryor’s projects.

"We’re the only state where there are two full levels of full review," he said.

"We’re doing everything we can to move these cases along…16, 18, 20 or more years of delays are not unusual."

Pryor has also pushed a bill ­ which was approved by the House of Representatives ­ that will, if passed by the Senate, create a sentencing commission like those in 28 other states.