Columbus officials combat court backlog
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - A backlog of criminal court cases continues to be an issue in Columbus, leaving inmates in jail for prolonged periods and many without yet being formally charged with a crime.
Nico Fitzpatrick, a suspect for a homicide back in 2018, has been in jail for quite a while.
Attorney William Kendrick says, “Now Mr. Fitzpatrick has been continuously incarcerated for somewhat about 805 days, give or take.” That’s about two years and two months without an indictment.
Fitzpatrick’s case was bound to Superior Court in April 2020. He is just now facing the Superior Court judge.
With the recent backlog of cases, Judge Arthur Smith, President of the Council of Superior Court Judges, had a large unindicted bond docket today for people who have been jailed for over 90 days and have not been indicted.
Judge Smith is using money from a $2 million grant to help clear up the backlog.
“The money has allowed us to engage our senior judges who are not on the bench actively involved to come back to work and handle civil cases and family law cases,” says Judge Arthur Smith.
Chief Judge McBride says filling positions in various offices dealing with the defendants have also been a part of the backlog.
“I would say a lot of it depends how quickly office can be fully staffed how quickly the public defender’s office can be fully staffed remember, we have to have a lawyer on both sides go to trial with just one lawyer sitting at one table.”
District Attorney Stacey Jackson, who was just appointed back in May, says issues hiring staff plays a part in creating the backlog but filling those positions remains important to him.
“I have a chief assistant now that I’ve heard back to the office chief assistant Don Kelly, and we hired three more assistant ADA’s In the last 30 to 45 days, and we have some few more position opening, and we’re constantly interviewing applicants to fill those remaining ADA positions.”
Stacey Jackson says hiring those few people have allowed them to catch up faster. The $2 million grant also makes it possible for them to incorporate an off-site location inside the old health department on comer ave to handle jury selection.
Judge Smith says it will probably take a little over two years to get back on track and to get court cases flowing through the system the way they should.
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