Prosecutors Dismissing Cases Due to COVID Backlog

Prosecutors Dismissing Cases Due to COVID Backlog wood gavel sits in front of scales of justice (Dreamstime)

By Theodore Bunker | Tuesday, 28 September 2021 10:51 AM

Prosecutors across the country have begun pleading out or dismissing cases in order to reduce the number that has greatly slowed down the criminal justice system, Axios reports.

"For the prosecution, the older a case gets, the tougher it gets to prove in a lot of cases," noted Billy West, president of the National District Attorneys Association and the Cumberland County, N.C. district attorney.

Many states also have laws in place to protect a person’s right to a speedy trial by ensuring that a case must be brought to court within a certain amount of time, such as in Illinois. Amy Thompson of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office told local news channel WGN9 that staff reductions have seen her staffers’ caseloads go from 50 per person to more than 100.

"We’re just hoping that people get back," Thompson said. "Back to the understanding of being in a room with somebody listening to the case, getting things done so that a lot of people can have their lives back."

Chief Judge Tim Evans pushed back on claims that the dismissed cases have led to a spike in violent crime, saying, "I think it’s really reflective of the fact that the mayor’s office and the superintendent are under enormous pressure," but state residents "have not reached a point where they can live a decent life. The anger will be dissipated and the people who are short cutting and doing things of an illegal nature will stop."

Alameda County, California District Attorney Nancy O'Malley told local ABC News affiliate KGO that "We've seen a big uptick in crime, especially violent crime," since the start of the pandemic, causing her backlog to rise from around 8,000 cases to about 12,000 cases.

"Crimes like driving under the influence or breaking into a car, if there's not a courtroom and it's going to take three years to get through a court process for a case like that, then it's nearly impossible to keep those cases pending," she said, noting that she’s had to dismiss cases due to the backlog.

"For people to be able to commit crimes and have no consequence — that is not good," she said.