With the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, criminal jury trials are getting backed up across Nevada.
Carson District Attorney Jason Woodbury said it’s a problem in the capital but nowhere near the problem the backlog has created in Clark and Washoe counties.
But he said Carson’s backlog has already filled the district court calendars for the rest of this year with at least one trial every week and many weeks more than one.
“It’s daunting,” he said. “March through December, looking at what we’ve got stacked up, it’s daunting.”
For his office, he said he fortunately has six prosecutors and four courtrooms that can handle a jury trial. Woodbury added that there are 25 trials scheduled from March through the end of July.
He said the defense lawyers in Carson have also been impacted by the shutdown but that they have been good to work with.
“It’s a situation where they could really have created some chaos,” he said. “They’re doing their jobs on behalf of their clients but not trying to make things worse by taking advantage of this.”
Criminal defendants can, if they choose, demand trial within 60 days and judges only have a limited ability to reject that demand. He said that hasn’t happened.
In addition, Carson District Court has two experienced judges, Todd Russell and Jim Wilson.
“It’s a backlog but it’s a manageable backlog,” Woodbury said. “Our high volume is in the misdemeanor stuff and we’ve been able to plow through that pretty well.”
Woodbury said most misdemeanor trials are bench trials before a judge with no jury present. The exception is domestic battery trials where the Nevada Supreme Court has ruled defendants can demand a jury.
Clark County Chief District Judge Linda Bell told lawmakers earlier this week that county is seriously backlogged for criminal trials.
Woodbury said when he checked, there were some 300 homicide trials on Clark County’s schedule.
“I can’t imagine that,” he said.