Some See Crisis Looming In Atlanta County’s Prosecution Backlog


A crowded docket and a lack of resources are being cited following a Georgia Supreme Court to dismiss a murder case because Fulton County prosecutors did not investigate the case for nearly four years, reports the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. The case involved the 2005 slaying of Kenneth Kemp, but by the time the district attorney's office obtained an indictment in August 2009, the apartments where the killing occurred had been condemned. The ruling is one of a number handed down over the past year in which appellate courts have dismissed Fulton cases on grounds the state waited too long to either indict the case or bring it to trial.

These cases include defendants accused of murder, child molestation, elderly abuse and armed robbery, according to court records. “Fulton is particularly prone to this problem because of the overcrowded docket and lack of resources,” said Ashleigh Merchant, a lawyer representing a defendant who prevailed on a speedy-trial motion. “When there is an overcrowded docket, someone needs to come in and re-evaluate cases to determine which cases have a higher priority.”Last year, the Fulton DA's office indicted more than 10,000 cases. Earlier this year, in an unsuccessful attempt to overturn another speedy-trial ruling, the office told the Georgia Supreme Court that more than 5,100 defendants in the county have had cases pending for more than two years. For this reason, a “constitutional crisis” threatens the prosecutions of many of them because of precedents set by the state's appellate courts, the court filing said.

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