Trial delays at Orleans Criminal Court at all-time high - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Trial delays at Orleans Criminal Court at all-time high

A community watchdog group says trial delays at Orleans Criminal Court are the worst they've seen since they started tracking proceedings in 2007.

Court Watch NOLA, a volunteer non-profit organization, released a report highlighting the delays.  Volunteers observed over 3,000 cases in 2011.

"What they found, is that almost two-thirds of the time, when they went to watch a particular trial or hearing or sentencing, it got continued, it got pushed back and delayed.  And that's a much higher percentage than in previous years," said Brad Cousins, executive director of Court Watch NOLA.

The report shows the delays from 2011 have continued into this year. Cousins says defendants often have to come back to court another day to face charges, half of them because another trial was taking place.

"In 2009 and 2010, we saw real progress in terms of moving the docket and doing so more efficiently. All of the progress was erased in 2011 when the continuance rate went back up to the record high of 63 percent," said Cousins.

According to our partners at The Lens, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro pledged to hold 600 jury trials last year. But his office only held 329, and that still was an increase from previous years.

The Court Watch NOLA report says the delays were because the DA's attorneys were "struggling in 2011 to keep up with the aggressive trial schedule."

"That was a very lofty goal.  We always knew it was a lofty goal, but in the end we saw a dramatic increase over 2010," said Orleans Parish Assistant DA Chris Bowman. "We always believed that it was possible, but we were at the end of the year very satisfied with the results."

Bowman says the office can't control the number of trials that occur in Criminal Court, and says the court watch group is missing the bigger picture, "being the fairness of the system, the effectiveness of the system.  And we consider that along with the efficiency when we're measuring our productivity."

Five years after the murder of 28-year-old Nia Robertson, her accused killer Eric Traczyc goes back on trial after numerous delays for a variety of reasons.  In Oct. 2007, police say Traczyc slit Robertson's throat as she talked with a friend inside Pal's Lounge in Mid-City.

Traczyc is a former Army Reservist with a history of psychiatric treatment. He's pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Cousins says he has court watch volunteers watching this high-profile case, every step of the way.

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