Albany's court docket crowded - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany's court docket crowded

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District Attorney Greg Edwards District Attorney Greg Edwards
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Dougherty County's court system is jammed. Prosecutors are struggling with a backlog of cases.

Overall crime is down,but the number of arrests for serious offenses is up. We found defendants arrested as far back as September who haven't been indicted, and cases from five years ago that still haven't made it trial.

District Attorney Greg Edwards plans to convene a summit to find ways to improve the court system on a tight budget. If a suspect isn't indicted within 90 days of his arrest, a judge must grant bond.

Judges say their court calendars are full, so we decided to look at what might be slowing down the system.  

More police on Albany's streets have resulted in more arrests and may ultimately be causing a slow down inside the Dougherty County Courthouse.

"Police are making good cases and are making more cases," said Greg Edwards, Dougherty District Attorney. "More serious cases, that take more time to prosecute. You're not going to be able to do multiple armed robbery case in a day, it's just not practical."

Edwards compares it to a funnel. While the top has widened, with more officers and a gang unit now on the streets, there's still a choking point all cases go through to get before a judge.

Adding more personnel with their budget isn't an option. "With each judge you have to have certain mandatory required personnel, you would need a secretary and you would also need a court reporter."

 Edwards says as many as six. At the clerk's office we asked how many warrants have yet to come before a grand jury. Going back to 1995, it's 979, give or take a few.

Raymond Fajardo was charged with manufacturing marijuana and operating a grow house back in September. In March, Dr. John Temple Phillips and his wife Amy's faced prescription drug charges. Neither case has appeared before a grand jury yet, nor has Municipal Court Judge Willie Weaver's aggravated assault case.

Edwards says it can be different circumstances from federal authorities to mental evaluations holding up cases. "Either the defense, or the court, or the state should recommend that the individual be evaluated."

Cases waiting to come to court, going back as far as 2006. Edwards says his first priority is serious cases where individuals are still jailed.

Case loads continue to grow both in Dougherty State and Superior Court which is why Edwards hopes a judicial summit might come up with some answers for dealing with the backlog of cases.

Edwards says he wants to put that summit together as soon as possible, a law enforcement summit was held just last week. He plans to involve, everyone from the judges, to the clerk of court.

We tried to contact several judges but were told they were too busy to talk today. Judges operate six, two-week court terms in Dougherty County and they set the court calendar.

 

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