Jury trials moving after pandemic put pause on justice, but recent violence could slow Shelby County courts


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For more than a year, the pandemic put jury trials on pause in Shelby County as countless defendants, victims and loved ones waited for their day in court.

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich says much-needed movement to the wheels of justice is finally happening. Jury trials are taking place now every week.

“There’s really no way to get our arms around how many trials were backlogged,” Weirich said. “If you think about how we typically try, you know, less than 150 jury trials a year and we lost a whole year, that gives you an idea of what we’re looking at.”

But gun violence is not helping.

The Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission reports that in the first six months of this year, major violent crime increased 13% in Memphis compared to 2020. Violent incidents involving guns increased nearly 22%.

Memphis police reported 332 homicides last year, and this year the city is at 156.

Some trials that were set to happen last year were pushed back to 2022 or haven’t even been set.

Judges say cases were handled through plea deals, but many still piled up.

“It will take at least a year or two before we can at least get caught up in jury cases,” said Judge Lee Coffee earlier this year.

Weirich said so far, trials have gone smoothly. She said if you walked into a courtroom, it would look the same as it always has — except everyone has a mask on.

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