After being arrested, booked, and arraigned for the misdemeanor crime of trespassing, a North Texas man spent more than 200 days in jail without ever getting a trial. This seven month period was more than the law even allows for a misdemeanor offender to be sentenced for this type of crime.
How did this happen? The man’s attorney is still trying to figure out what specific errors occurred in the system that could have led to her client being kept behind bars for such an excessive amount of time. According to the Dallas County District’s Attorney Office, a clerk didn’t not follow the proper protocol with the man’s case, which meant it went unnoticed for all those months. They also claim that they have now put in additional safeguards to prevent something like this from happening again.
How fair is the criminal justice system?
After this incident, many are questioning whether or not there could be other intimates suffering the same type of situation. Some have even called for a top-to-bottom review to pin-point the exact error and review other cases to determine if a timely trial was denied.
The man’s attorney claims that this could be a civil rights issue, as every person is guaranteed due process and the right to a speedy trial. The defendant had been arrested and convicted of criminal trespass more than 25 times since 2009, making him no stranger to the criminal justice system. However, his most recent case played out much differently than the ones before.
Officials said that it appears the man’s case simply fell through the cracks of the system. The initial issue was caused by a clerk’s failure to deliver the case paperwork to the county clerk’s office. Since it was never filed with the courts, no date was set or public defender assigned to the case. Though the inmate tried to tell deputies and others that something was wrong and frequently asked about getting a court date, no one did anything to help.
Finally, after the man wrote a letter to the public defender’s office requesting help for his plight, he was assigned an attorney. After reviewing his case and noticing the date of incarceration, his lawyer quickly sprang into action on his behalf and secured his release from jail.
In response to these issues, Dallas County is looking to introduce a new adult case management system to cut down on the lack of communication between the court and the jails. This would automate a majority of the process, hopefully eliminating human error in the future.
For the man who spent those 200 days in jail, the DA’s office decided to dismiss the case for the sake of “justice,” though that may not be enough in this situation.