MINNEAPOLIS – When Minnesota prosecutors consider how to charge a suspect, they weigh factors such as criminal history and prior convictions, information that is relevant and significant in crimes like domestic abuse.
County attorneys across the state used to rely heavily on a computer platform called Odyssey Assistant that provided relevant information in one place, but over the past month the Minnesota State Court Administration has phased out access to the platform. In a letter signed by 75 county attorneys across the country, they raise concerns that the alternatives the state has given them could result in prosecutorial errors.
KARE 11 News has obtained a copy of the letter, which was written by Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty and co-signed by prosecutors ranging from every county attorney across the metro to Minnesota’s smallest rural counties like Traverse and Wilkin.
Moriarty cited concerns raised by staff who use the new system daily. They experience problems searching criminal history, accessing court calendars and viewing active warrants. She says that while prosecutors manually search for a defendant’s criminal history, prosecutors are now forced to skim through a list of names where the same person appears multiple times on the list because of data entry issues.
“Which means it can be easy to miss a previous conviction. If a name is misspelled, the person’s history can be missed entirely,” Moriarty explained. “This means at the time of a charging decision, prosecutors may not be aware that the case should be strengthened (for example, domestic violence cases). It also affects a prosecutor’s assessment of criminal history and offers that may be made to resolve a case.”, reads the letter.
The letter is addressed to Minnesota State Court Administrator Jeff Shorba, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Natalie Hudson and Minnesota Court of Appeals Chief Justice Susan Segal.
The plaintiffs are asking that access to the Odyssey Assistant platform be restored or that improvements be made to the replacement systems.
In a letter to Moriarty, Shorba addressed some of the concerns, saying the platform is no longer available due to a lack of future updates and support from the company, along with cybersecurity concerns.
Shorba acknowledged that Odyssey Assistant had more robust features than the new tools available to prosecutors, but added, “other concerns about alternative products are based on lack of use by individuals and a misunderstanding of the functionality of specific products.”
Wilkins County Attorney Joseph Glasrud said he has noticed a difference in the month since his office lost access.
“We can’t just access court information as quickly or efficiently,” Glasrud said. “It’s important to have the best possible access during court hearings. I’ve worked for three different small counties and we have to keep things efficient.”
Shorba indicated that the Minnesota State Court Administration is making improvements to the various computer platforms based on feedback from prosecutors and that discussion of the case will continue.
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