On April 13th, the New York Times published an examination of the Bronx Court System, critiquing the courts for extensive delays which undermine the notion of the right to a speedy trial. The article describes the Bronx Court System as overwhelmed and unable to try cases at the speed necessary in order to provide access to justice, with 73% of all Bronx felony cases taking longer than the court’s own time targets, more than the rate in any other New York borough. The result of these delays and the extensive time it takes to try cases has been a sharp decrease in the number of jury trials that result in guilty verdicts. This raises questions about whether the broken justice system is enabling some of the most severe criminals to go free, preventing true justice for victims and failing to reduce crime.
According to the article, in the Bronx, there are more people in jail waiting for their trials than there are in the rest of the city combined. More than half of the cases in New York City criminal courts that are over two years old are from the Bronx, as are two-thirds of the defendants who have been in jail for over five years waiting for their trials. These delays are caused by a combination of factors, including trials being postponed due to a shortage of judges. However, they are also caused by defense lawyers exploiting delays in attempt to have their clients’ charges thrown out once too much time has passed, as well as by both prosecutors and defense lawyers frequently taking days off. In addition, the court system is overburdened and underfinanced. Ultimately, innovative solutions must be developed in order to more effectively bring about justice throughout all of New York.