Five capital cases have been languishing in Atlanta’s courts at least five years after the crime occurred, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We've just been waiting day-to-day – waiting for somebody to call us,” said the victim’s brother in one case. “Why is it taking so long?” The time lag can bode poorly for the prosecution. “Criminal cases never get better – they don't age like fine wine,” said Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter. “There is a likelihood you will lose witnesses. There is a likelihood that memories will change.”
Reasons for the delays vary. The cases involve more legal issues requiring extra attention since they're scrutinized by appellate courts for reversible error. Defense lawyers fight for every delay, hoping to prompt a plea bargain. The delays are more exacerbated in Atlanta’s Fulton County because dockets are clogged with serious felonies, many judges don't push the cases, and District Attorney Paul Howard entrusts only a few prosecutors to ask for the ultimate penalty. Howard blamed long delays primarily on judges who won't set them for trial.