Court Budget Pressures Could Mean Case Dismissals


When Tameca Griffin helped herself to a few grapes at a grocery store in 2006, she had no reason to think her nibbling would wind up before the Minnesota Court of Appeals, says the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In a ruling some legal experts warn is a sign of things to come, the appeals court threw out Griffin's conviction for assaulting the off-duty cop who tried to stop her from eating the grapes. The reason: Although Griffin asked for a speedy trial, it took eight months for an overloaded court system to hear her case.

With the governor proposing even more cuts in a criminal justice system that already has struggled with cuts in budget and personnel, there is concern Griffin's case won't be the last of its type. “The president of the bar association [] said we may have to have the court system collapse like the 35W bridge before people take this seriously,” said John Stuart, the state's chief public defender. “This Griffin case, you can look at it and see the gusset plate bending.” Griffin's trial was scheduled, canceled and rescheduled 30 times between December 2006 and the following June. Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said court congestion “is absolutely a nightmare for everyone involved in the system.”

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