If you know someone sitting in jail in Kansas awaiting trial, don’t expect their trial to begin anytime soon. Gov. Laura Kelly recently

signed a new law eliminating the right

to a speedy trial in Kansas through

March 1, 2023. The measure is an attempt to deal with the backlog of trials brought about by COVID-19-related delays.

The 6th Amendment of the United

States Constitution, as well as provision in the Kansas constitution, guarantee an accused person the right to

a speedy trial. While the federal law

does not set an exact timeframe for a

speedy trial, Kansas law does.

According to Kansas law, defendants held in custody solely must be brought to trail within 150 days

or their case will automatically be

dismissed “with prejudice.” Out-

of-custody defendants must be

brought to trial within 180

days or, again, have their case

dismissed with prejudice. In March 2020, when the

Legislature began to understand I you know someone sitting in a the potential scope of the pandemic, they passed a bill giving the Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court the authority to suspend those deadlines through March 31, 2021.

Without the passage of this new

bill, HB2078, the courts would have

tried the backlog of cases that built

up during the last year within 150 to

180 days.

According to Sedgwick County

District Attorney Mark Bennett,

Sedgwick County has a backlog of

nearly 650 cases that have been filed

and arraigned. Bennett checked in

with other courts and found Shawnee

County with a similar backlog and Johnson County proposed eliminating speedy trial : procedures in Kansas through with a 400-to-500-case backlog. He did not report on Wyandotte County’s backlog of cases. Bennett said Sedgwick County’s cases include 11 individuals being held

for homicide. “Meanwhile, in Wichita, crime does not stop,” said Bennett, noting that the number reflects the backlog to date, and that new cases will continue to add to the backlog. “Until the vaccine is widely available, social distancing rules are lifted and courts can bring personnel, litigants and jurors back into the courtrooms of this state at pre-COVID levels, working down the backlog while attending to the new business coming in the door is going to take significant time,” said Bennett during his testimony before the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee that first heard the bill. The original version of the bill had March 2024

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...

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