Court officials hopeful new year alleviates jury trial backlog

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – As time winds down for 2020, it is still moving slowly for defendants awaiting trial.

Madison County DA’s Office Chief Trial Attorney Tim Gann said COVID-19 has effectively put a hold on operations. “We have had to redo our entire process so that we can turn the courthouse into a place that is that safe for jurors to come in,” he said. “We have had to shut down, of course, jury trials for most of the year.”

None of the potential death penalty cases went before a jury in 2020.

“We have not tried any capital cases, death penalty cases,” Gann said. “There were two death penalty cases set last year one in April and one in June.”

The first case involves Warren Hardy, accused of carjacking and killing a 72-year-old woman in 2016 after kidnapping 3 people.

The second case involves Christopher Henderson, a Huntsville man charged with killing five people, including an unborn child in August 2015.

“Both those cases got postponed,” Gann said. “They are first up, as soon as we are able to start trying capital cases again. Warren Hardy most likely will be first and then Chris Henderson.”

A 2018 case involving two men, Yoni Aguilar and Israel Palomino, charged with the murders of a woman and her 13-year-old granddaughter could also go to trial in 2021. The men are believed to be connected Sinaloa drug cartel.

“I think that case, both those cases, could possibly be set by the end of the year,” Gann said. “If things go back to normal, I think that that would probably be the next case, after the Henderson case, that could be set.”

Gann said the virus has backed everything up from the case logs to the jailhouse. But once jurors can safely attend trials, Gann is confident Madison County will regain its footing in terms of major trials.

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