Court System Waits on Amendment One
MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Tuesday is a waiting game, to find out if long-term waits in the court system will get even longer.
Marshall County district attorney Steve Marshall said amendment one highlights how much he and others already wait for evidence testing and trials.
“Our drug cases are behind in being able to eventually get those to a jury,” Marshall said.
“We’ve seen a delay in the reports that we receive for DNA evidence, and we recently had a murder case where we waited almost two years to get that report.”
It took more than a year for Marshall County deputies to arrest a suspect in the October 2009 murder of Ricky Moody, near Guntersville.
Wesley Claude Burgess has been in the Marshall County jail since that November 2010 arrest, and will go on trial next month now that prosecutors finally have those DNA test results.
The district attorney’s office continues to wait for the Department of Forensic Sciences to return the results of evidence in another murder case from May 2012.
Prosecutors need that report to file charges in the killing of Ansheka Radford, found dead in an Albertville apartment.
Marshall said that is just one of many cases statewide.
“We have criminal investigations right now pending where DNA results are going to the lynchpin in us being able to charge, and right now we’re waiting on those results,” he said.
“We don’t believe it’s any fault of forensic science, they simply don’t have the manpower currently to process all that they’re given, and our concern is a reduction in state spending even more is going to cause even more problems in the future.”
He said it is a result of decreased funding for those agencies over several years, and pro-ration resulted in fewer jury trials.
That is not due to fewer cases, which means it takes longer to go to trial.
Those delays make it harder to find witnesses; some may move away, and others may die before a case goes to court.
It does not benefit the district attorney’s office to have months of extra time to prepare.
“The best time for us to prosecute a case is right after it happened and any delay simply serves to hamper prosecution, not to help it,” Marshall said.
There have not been any proposed solutions other than amendment one, and the district attorney said if it fails and nothing else is offered, there will be even more reductions.
“The cuts that we’re talking about now–for the levels that we are right now–are unprecedented,” he said.
“So to the extent that we’re having to face that, we’re in uncharted territory where really none of us know exactly what’s going to happen.”
If amendment one passes, it is unknown if it will be a permanent solution or a short-term fix that causes more problems for the state’s finances in the long run.
“I think we all wish there were a better solution,” Marshall said.
“That trust fund is designed to serve the state of Alabama for years to come and any time we have to dip into that money reduces our ability to dip into that reserve in the future.”
Even with all the delays faced in waiting for evidence and trials, that experience doesn’t make waiting any easier.