An inside look at the Wayne County court backlog that officials say is helping fuel a spike in crime

COVID-19 restrictions to blame for backlog

Inside the Wayne County Court backlog that's helping fuel a spike in crime

WAYNE COUNTY, Mich.A Wayne County judge took the Local 4 Defenders into the courtroom on Tuesday to reveal just how behind the system has fallen.

The early days of the COVID pandemic put courts behind schedule and more than a year later they’re still trying to catch back up. That means more defendants than normal are out on bond.

Read: Michigan Gov. Whitmer proposes $75M initiative to fight crime, hire more officers

Judge Kenneth King, with the 36th District Court, said he starts his docket at 8 a.m. and works until 3:30 p.m. Every day he has felony cases where the defendants have been out on bond waiting for their day in court.

“People who are out on bond may re-offend,” King said.

When the COVID pandemic started, preliminary hearings and jury trials were put on hold. The backlog is 5,000 cases. Wayne County usually has 400 verdicts in a year. In 2020 it had 83 verdicts.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said part of the spike in crime can be linked to defendants out waiting.

“It is new to us to have these people waiting for trials for so long,” Worthy said.

Worthy said hiring more prosecutors and bringing in more judges would help with the problem.

Read: Wayne County Crime coverage

About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.