Thursday, January 18, 2007
County works on backlog of cases
By SUE WATSON
Judge Andrew Howorth impanelled the 2007 grand jury Wednesday last week and so far 66 indictments have been returned, according to circuit clerk Lucy Carpenter.
The cases, some of which have multiple defendants, range from burglary, larceny, aggravated assault, kidnapping and some involve children, she said.
“There were a few drug cases but not as many as usual,” she said.
The grand jury meets three scheduled times a year depending on the sensitivity of the case, Carpenter said.
“They may be called back, for example, in other cases like the 2006 Morgan Shaw case or when Sheriff Osborne Bell was killed in May 1986,” she said.
Grand jury indictments will be served in coming days and weeks with February 14 set as arraignment day, she said.
Arraignment is the first appearance in circuit court after defendants have been served their indictment and a warrant telling them when to appear in court.
Sheriff Kenny Dickerson said a number of drug cases are backlogged while he waits on scientific evidence from the state crime laboratory. He expects to have 60 to 80 drug cases to present to grand jury several months from now.
But the jail is at capacity most of the time with numerous individuals being kept on parole violations or for a six-month sentence imposed by judges for failure to pay child support, he said.
And with the growth in county population, the ne’er-do-wells are also migrating into Marshall County, he said.
“The majority of growth is from good, honest, hard-working people, but unfortunately, some of that growth is in the criminal element,” Dickerson said. “Quite honestly, I don’t know where we’re going to put all of them (inmates).”
The county has plenty of area to expand the jail which is built on a modular type plan so it will be easy to add another wing to the jail, he said.
And Marshall County has to pay $50 to $60 a day if one of its inmates is kept in another facility, but is reimbursed only $20 a day to keep state inmates.
He said it would be more economical for the county to have space enough to house its own inmates.
The state inmate work program helps the county, he said. Legislative authority allows state inmates to work in the roadside trash pick-up program, which adds value to the county and provides some activities for inmates who want to serve some of their time working.
Dickerson said the per diem the state reimburses counties to house state inmates is not enough to cover the cost of housing them.
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