Trials are up and running and jurors are coming in at a steadier pace, but prosecutors are still seeking pragmatic solutions to their backlogs of cases.
According to Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes, things have been picking up in the last two months or so, and the office has been more consistent with getting trials off the ground. Prior to COVID-19, they would typically get as many as four trials off the ground in any given week.
“Today, we’ve had three get off the ground in a week and we’ve processed three to four trials in a week, once or twice when COVID started,” Fagundes said. “But if we can get one or two trials going each week, we’re in good shape, we’ll catch up, which is what’s been consistent I think.”
However, while more jurors have accepted the to jury duty, there’s still some hesitance. There’s also been the issue of continuances being filed by defendants and occasionally by prosecution, which can delay the trial process. These, of course, can often stem from new information that needs to be reviewed by both defenders and by the District Attorney’s Office. Meanwhile, the lessened but continued hesitance has forced the Office to take on more pragmatic approaches to handling their cases and clearing the backlog.
“We’ve been clearing the serious ones out,” Fagundes said. “We’ve been trying not to occupy a jury’s time with minor things. I can guarantee you if a trial is going these days, it’s a serious case.”
This has meant that the District Attorney’s Office is exercising some leniency and is making plea deals with defendants more often than they might normally.
“On a practical level, we’re reasonable on every offer we make and we’re always reasonable in taking into account each defendant’s circumstances as well as each victim’s circumstances,” Fagundes said. “So we’re kind of the middle guy who does the balancing between the two. And yes, we do have to consider the practicality of getting enough jurors here to do trials.”
Fagundes also said they’ve been able to get at least one trial out a week for the past several months.