On Tuesday, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty filed motions to remove 14 cases from the docket of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph Russo because they are more than 1 year old.
The motion states: "...the State is prepared for trial, yet proceedings in each of these cases have been delayed beyond one year. Therefore, for the purpose of judicial economy and efficiency, the State moves this Court to transfer each of these criminal cases to another trial judge whose docket is current."
Last week, McGinty sent a letter to administrative and presiding Judge Russo requesting the court's collaboration in an effort to examine why some cases have lingered so long, as well as to address any structural issues. A review by the prosecutor's office found that as of June 3, there were 83 cases more than 1 year old.
"Yesterday was the 12th time a murder case was postponed in the last year and a half. There is a rape case in the same courtroom, which has been set for trial 20 times, as the victim waits for justice. There are another 12 serious cases in the same courtroom that are over a year old and the victims await justice," McGinty said. "This particular courtroom has not been handling a significant number of criminal trials. In fact, there has been only one criminal jury trial and three short bench trials for a grand total of 13 days of trial in that courtroom over the last 18 months. The criminal justice system isn't well served -- nor are crime victims afforded justice -- when courtrooms sit empty and yet we have a jail full of prisoners waiting for trial."
In the motion, McGinty points out how these criminal cases also tack on added jail costs for the county. According to the motion, "the State estimates that for each of the defendants in jail, there is an additional cost of approximately $115/day." The motion also says studies show individuals charged and released on bond are more likely to engage in crime and unnecessary delays can lead to more crime victims.
The motion ends with: "Given the negative consequences of prolonging the resolution of these cases, the State urges this Court to transfer each of these cases. By doing so, this Court can help ensure that justice is not delayed and that neither the victims of crime nor the taxpayers are unduly burdened."