Pandemic postpones murder, rape, and violent crime trials; victims’ families frustrated

NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — Some murder, rape, and violent crime trials continue to get pushed back due to COVID.

After two COVID exposures led to mistrials in two recent cases, any trial that could last more than a week has been pushed back. It’s frustrated many violent crime victims and their families.

Roger Greenwood has been waiting for this moment four and a half years. Back in 2017, his son Terry was shot and killed. His accused murderer’s trial has been pushed back four to five times since then. Most recently, Greenwood got a call from the Assistant District Attorney last Friday.

“Then he calls me Friday and says well, I don’t really have no good news,” Greenwood remembered. “They say it’s been postponed again due to the COVID 19.”

Greenwood said this latest delay made him and his family feel more helpless than ever.

“We’re frustrated,” he continued, “I’m not looking forward to going to court and hearing all this testimony and seeing pictures, but it does need to get over with.”

According to Assistant DA Dru Lewis, cases like Greenwoods (murders, rapes, and most violent crimes) have been pushed back due to the pandemic.

“Because when you think about that number of witnesses, the amount of time it would take in a courtroom the jurors in a courtroom, all the other court staff in a courtroom, the likelihood of that going off without a hitch due to the pandemic at this stage is pretty unlikely due to what we’ve seen,” Lewis explained.

While New Hanover County courts are not completely shut down, Lewis said they are more selective with what goes to trial right now.

“We’ve been told that for trials that can last under a week we should move forward for now,” Lewis said. “And hopefully we’ll be able to continue getting that done.”

Lewis says it’s creating a backlog of cases like Greenwood’s, stretching trial dates into 2022.

“When you take off months of having no court time,” he said, “and you try to push everything back into a posture to try… there’s not enough courtrooms, there’s not enough personnel, there’s not enough resources to get it done right when you want it done.”

For families like Greenwood’s, it means more hurt and uncertainty.

“I just, we just want it over. We want it over, but we do want justice also,” said Greenwood.

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