Backlogged with hundreds of cases, Maryland resumes jury trials
BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. (WBFF) — Jury trials have resumed across Maryland after the Maryland Court of Appeals issued an order back in December 2021 to delay proceedings amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The three-month pause came after an initial, nearly year-long pause due to the coronavirus.
Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger estimates the backlog in cases in Baltimore County is now in the hundreds and added some judges believe it may take up to a year to catch up.
"We are front-loading all of our felony cases," explained Shellenberger, when discussing the SAO approach to the backlog. "Each day that the jurors are available, we will have a case ready to go, as well as two backups. That way if the first case pleads guilty, it will go to the second and so on."
The SAO used this approach when trials resumed after the first pause.
Shellenberger told FOX45 News from April 2021 to December 2021 his office has tried 50 criminal jury trials which resulted in 40 verdicts, nine defendants pleading guilty after the jury was selected, and one case where proceedings were postponed.
"We were able to resolve 47 murder cases either through a jury trial or a guilty plea," Shellenberger said. "It really is the availability of jurors that really drives our ability to get violent crime going in the courtrooms."
Shellenberger said jury trials are necessary to keep violent criminals off the streets.
"As long as jurors are not available, it gives a defendant no incentive to plead guilty or to get their day in court," Shellenberger said. "We need to get those jury trials back so we can start moving these cases again. It's going to take us a while to catch up."