Clark County Addresses Growing Backlog of Homicide Cases

Clark County’s backlog of homicide cases has grown to over 300 cases. Most of these cases are slow moving, requiring a large amount of time to move through the judicial system. Recognizing this problem, the Nevada Supreme Court created a commission to study Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2015, headed by Chief Justice Michael Cherry and Justice Michael Douglas. The commission has made recommendations to the courts to help move these cases through the system faster.

Clark County District Court has implemented the Commission’s recommendations by selecting Judge Douglas Herndon to head up a panel of four judges for a yearlong pilot program, whose sole focus will be to move these cases to resolution faster. Judges Valerie Adair, Jennifer Togliatti, and Eric Johnson, all of which have been prosecutors in their careers, to join this pilot program, join Judge Herndon. Judge Herndon will review all homicide cases and assign them to him and the other three judges with the objective of reducing the time needed to resolve those cases.

The judges have moved all civil cases on their calendars to other judges in the District Court and will focus primarily on moving the glut of homicide cases through the system. Judge Herndon believes this reorganization will “…move cases along a lot faster. We’re putting pressure on prosecutors to make sure they’re complying with all of their discovery obligations, putting pressure on the defense to make sure they’re doing their investigations and preparing for trial.”

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, who was part of the Supreme Court’s commission has stated, “I’m very, very pleased with the court and its decision to create this pilot program. We are in a crisis here in Clark County.”

Part of that “crisis” has to do the costs of housing inmates at Clark County Detention Center and other jails in the county at a cost of roughly $150 per day per inmate. Wolfson believes the backlog, “…contributes to the population of the jail. If there are so many murder cases being set and reset, it just naturally causes other matters to be delayed.”

Homicide cases generally take the longest of any type of case to move through the system, and homicide cases make up a small part of the nearly 7,000 criminal cases pending in Clark County. It is believed, however, that expediting the homicide cases in this manner will allow many of the other criminal cases to move faster as well, since other judges in Clark County will be able to focus on the non-homicide caseload without distraction.

The Defenders Represents Defendants Charged in Homicide Cases

Homicide cases are among the most complex and demanding in the legal system. The time required to move a homicide case through the system is a large investment in discovery, investigation, case preparation, and court time. The stakes are extremely high and include the very real possibility of capital punishment. The lawyers of The Defenders know this territory and have the knowledge and skills to provide a vigorous defense for those charged with this type of crime. We stand ready to help at (702) 333-3333.

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