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Tippecanoe County Prosecutor preparing for backlog of jury trials

The Indiana Supreme Court suspended trials until March due to COVID-19.

Posted: Dec 31, 2020 4:31 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - The local criminal justice system is preparing for a backlog of jury trials next year.

That comes after the Indiana Supreme Court suspended trials until March due to COVID-19.

"Twelve to 16 hour days probably will be in store for the entire staff," says Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington. "Instead of having two jury trials a month in a courtroom, we may have three or four."

Harrington says that will add pressure on his deputy prosecutors and staff who are already stretched thin.

"We have two attorneys in each court," he says. "They obviously can't be in trials and then be preparing for trials at the same time so logistically this puts a lot of stress on our staff."

Major felony cases are usually completed within six to seven months, but Harrington anticipates they could now consume up to a year.

"Just because there will be those other issues of people getting sick from COVID that will bump that cases for another three to four months," he says. 

Compounding the issue is a rise in major felony cases in Tippecanoe County. Harrington has filed about 400 of those cases this year compared to 320 in a normal year.

Sheriff Bob Goldsmith says he is working with judges, prosecutors and police departments to keep low-level offenders out of the jail, making room for people awaiting trial on more serious charges.

"Are there folks that can go to community corrections and be on at home monitoring? Communicating with the other chiefs with the other departments, if there's things you can cite and release for we encourage that."

As News 18 previously reported, all court proceedings will be done virtually in Tippecanoe County for the first week of January.

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