Everyone is familiar with the old Gladstone adage that "justice delayed is justice denied." Well, the Supreme Court of Georgia has just given new meaning and some real "oomph" to this old quote.
The State of Georgia's highest court recently dismissed murder charges against two men, Maurice Gleaton and Antonio Clark, because the Fulton County District Attorney's Office took too long --four to five years-- to bring the case to trial. Gleaton and Clark had been charged in connection with the August, 2005 shooting death of a man at an Atlanta apartment complex. Can you believe it took nearly five years for the state to get ready?! Don't you agree that it is outrageous that it would take so long for the state to prepare a criminal case for trial?!
In dismissing the murder case, the Court was clearly focused on the prejudice to a defendant's constitutional rights when a speedy trial is denied. For instance, in this case, the location where the crime had occurred had apparently been condemned and torn down. As a result, no physical evidence could be retrieved.
This criminal case is illustrative of a serious problem facing our criminal justice system. And believe me, trial delays are not confined to Atlanta, Georgia. Our courts everywhere are generally bogged down and over-burdened with more cases than our criminal justice system can efficiently handle. In my opinion, (as a former federal and state prosecutor, and presently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense attorney), prosecutors' offices must learn to more effectively screen their cases and develop better strategies to address criminal case backlogs. It can be done!
No matter where you stand on the poltical spectrum, hopefully you will agree that a five year delay beween a crime and trial is patently unfair and absurd. It is unfair to the defendant, just as it is also unfair to the victim's family members!
After all, as the Georgia Supreme Court has just re-affirmed, "justice delayed is justice denied!"