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Reality Check: Underfunded and overworked, major court delays

(IMG:WPMI) Reality Check: Underfunded and overworked, major court delays

Delays in the court system are forcing victims of crime to wait longer and longer for justice. NBC 15's Andrea Ramey investigates what's causing the wait.

Kristen Cooks walked out TGI Friday's last month in a bloodied t-shirt after police say she stabbed her boyfriend in the neck with a steak knife in the middle of the restaurant, in front of their two kids. Her boyfriend Andre Boykin, witnesses say, had hit her multiple times prior to the stabbing.

Could this violent exchange been prevented? Maybe says District Attorney Ashley Rich. Boykin had been indicted on domestic violence charges back in November, but his file was collecting dust in the clerk's office at the time of stabbing.

"Who knows what would've happened had it gotten a case number and a judge and he'd shown up for an arraignment and been reminded of a no contact order," said Rich.

Rich says Boykin's case is one of 1,000 cases, just waiting to be processed.

"But for it to sit and stop and not be processed, just to get a case number and a judge assigned to it, for three months? That's unheard of," said Rich.

Presiding Judge John Lockett blames the delays on a lack of funding and says it's hit the clerk's office hard.

"They should be funding 58 employees They're down 19 employees," said Lockett.

Records show funding for the courts has been slashed since the recession. In Mobile where the case load is higher, a study found the need for three more judges. Instead, they're forced to do more with less.

"Unfortunately in Alabama we have a habit of waiting until things explode, until situations become dire before they're addressed," said Lockett. "Before the bottom drops out, before the Circuit literally implodes on itself because of the work load, we need to address it now."

"It's incredibly frustrating. It's very difficult to tell victims that," said Rich.

Mobile County injected funds into the local courts last year to help prop it up, but that was a one-time deal. Lockett says if the state doesn't come up with more funding, he'll be forced to lay off 35% of the judge's staff later this year.

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