ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A New York executive order has stopped speedy trial requirements for unindicted felony crimes.
“I think there’s an argument that there are people in jail right now, and I think everybody on all sides of all isles of criminal justice doesn’t feel really good about that, but the remedy isn’t something we can quite determine,” said Rensselaer County District Attorney Mary Pat Donnelly.
Discovery law going into effect last year gives a time limit to producing evidence before a case is thrown out. Mounting misdemeanor cases have added to the problem.
“The executive order helped, but we really need a critical look at the discovery obligations and we have many many misdemeanors pending that are going to need to be dealt with,” Donnelly said.
While the justice system has slowed down to safely operate during the pandemic, crime has not. In Troy alone, Donnelly said shootings were up 600 percent last year.
“This tremendous amount of backlog is going to lead to a back log for years down the road,” said defense attorney Lee Kindlon.
Kindlon has a client in jail charged with murder unable to schedule a court date.
“The answer I keep getting from the court and from the district attorney’s office is, ‘We’ll get to it when we get to it,'” Kindlon said.
The defense attorney said this order doesn’t only hurt the accused, but delays justice.
“What do I tell my client? What does the DA’s office and what do the police departments tell the victims and the witnesses who have been affected by these cases,” Kindlon said.
The executive order expires at the end of the month, but it can be renewed. Donnelly would also like misdemeanors and discovery law changed as well to help prosecutors.
“We still have to generate all this paper work and discoverable material because we have to meet those compliance deadlines,” Donnelly said.
Instead, Kindlon said this should be a time to reimagine the justice system.
“We have really entered a new era of criminal justice,” Kindlon said.