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Pandemic delays justice for victims of crime in Mobile County

(WPMI) Pandemic delays justice for victims of crime in Mobile County
(WPMI) Pandemic delays justice for victims of crime in Mobile County

One of the many unanticipated consequences of the pandemic and forced shutdowns is the backlog it's created in our already overloaded courts. Now, as courts re-open only a fraction of cases are allowed to proceed under current COVID-19 restrictions. NBC 15's Andrea Ramey reports how these delays have impacted one local mother, whose daughter was senselessly murdered.

January 2nd 2018, Mercedes Jackson was shot and killed while sitting in a car in the Maryvale community. Her four children, two sets of twins, and her mother Sharon Carter, ran outside their home and witnessed the horrific scene that followed. Police say it was Mercedes’s ex-boyfriend Antonio Collier who pulled the trigger.

"It's been horrible. It's been devastating," said Carter. "He's affected the entire family."

Sharon now raises her four grandchildren.

"It's a daily struggle, and it's nothing but the Lord that's holding us each and every day," said Carter.

Collier, who is facing a capital murder charge, was set to go on trial in September. That's when trials finally resumed after being put on pause for months due to the pandemic.

"We was looking for the trial to start so we can get him convicted and on off to jail, prison so that we can have some closure," said Carter.

But Collier's trial has been delayed. The judge pushed it back until March of next year, more than 3 years after Mercedes was murdered.

"It's very difficult because our job is to provide justice to all victims," said Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich.

Rich says while trials are happening, it's now limited to two criminal trials per week due to COVID-19 restrictions at the courthouse.

"We're maybe getting 10% of the jury trials we had before COVID," said Rich. "Which is putting us further and further and further behind."

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise, the presiding circuit judge is considering not having jury trials in December.

"If the numbers keep piling up, there's at least a risk I may scale it back and say let's not go forward with getting people down here at this time because we're bringing in people here from all over the county to the civic center, 150-200 people. That's a lot of people, and it worries me," said Judge Michael Youngpeter.

A final decision has not been made yet.

Previously: Trial backlog in Mobile County keeping accused criminals on the streets