Justice Grinding To A Halt In Jackson County

The year is coming to a close, but the court docket in Jackson Count faces the same problem it had when the year began.

"It looks like we are going to start this year out the same way we started the year 2000 without a public defender," Jackson county District Attorney Keith Miller says.

That means six capital murder cases, along with several other important trials, have to be reassigned to either the new public defender or another independent attorney.  Both will need time to learn the cases.

"Realistically, I think its going to be difficult to have them tried in the January term of court," Miller says.  "We'll be able to get those cases in a position to have them tried at least by the April term that comes around."

For the last year the District Attorney's office has worked hard to keep the county's docket moving. This possible delay isn't how Keith Miller and his staff wanted to begin the new year.

"It's frustrating for me, but it's even more frustrating for victims' families or the actual victims in some of these cases as well as law enforcement officers," Miller says.  "It's frustrating to all those people."

The county has only one more week to avoid a down time in the public defender office.  On Dec. 31st, the current public defender George Kelly's resignation takes effect.

Judge Kathy King Jackson and several other area judges are responsible for filling the public defender position.  So far, they have made no announcement about possible candidates or how the search is going.