The average murder case in North Carolina took 544 days to go to trial last fiscal year. In that time, 619 people were charged with murder and only 106 went to trial.
“People get frustrated in the length of time it takes to work through the caseloads and the fact that so many cases are backlogged,” said Scott Broyles, of the Charlotte School of Law.
Last week in Charlotte, Demeatrius Montgomery was convicted of killing two police officers, three and a half years after his arrest in April 2007. Murder cases in Mecklenburg County take an average of 430 days to go to trial.
Mecklenburg County District Attorney Peter Gilchrist says the delay is due to a backlog in cases and limited resources.
“These attorneys try a murder case every two weeks,” he said.
The wait times are even longer in other parts of the state. Laurence Lovette is still awaiting trail in the 2008 death of UNC student Eve Carson. His co-defendent in that case, Demario Atwater, pleaded guilty in September and was sentenced to life in prison.
The average wait time in Orange County is 769 days.
The 2007 murder case of Winston-Salem police Sgt. Howard Plouff went three years before a trial. Keith Carter was sentenced to 16 to 21 years for the murder.
Defendants in Forsyth County wait, on average, 512 days to see their day in court.
“It’s not because there aren’t dedicated and competent assistant district attorneys, it’s simply known for a long time that office has been underfunded,” said Broyles.
Out of the 619 pending murder cases in the state last fiscal year, 305 pleaded to a lesser charge, something law experts say will continue to happen until more funding is provided to counties’ district attorneys’ offices.