Working through 1300+ case backlog, Prosecutor says plea deals necessary

When a plea is negotiated and accepted in a case, the Genesee County Prosecutor says closure is provided.
Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 5:46 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - (6/15/2021) - Now that courtrooms are back open, courts across the state are working through a backlog of criminal cases.

In Genesee County, the Prosecutor said they’re working through a pile of 1,300 cases.

Earlier this month, ABC12 reported on the Office’s efforts to get defendants through the court system as quickly as possible.

We’ve now learned how the Genesee County Prosecutor plans to push forward -- negotiating more plea agreements.

Prosecutor David Leyton made it clear a plea doesn’t mean a lesser charge or shorter punishment for the accused.

Leyton added he understands the community’s frustration with that option, but said it can be the just option in a lot of cases.

“You know, they want me to take every case to trial and convict the accused of all the crimes that they were alleged to have committed, but the fact of the matter is is that the system can’t handle that,” Leyton explained.

He said, per capita, Genesee County has the heaviest caseload in the country. And because the County is also understaffed, Leyton said there are not enough courtrooms, prosecutors or judges to handle the number of cases -- even without the backlog the COVID19 shutdown caused.

“In most instances the community is best served by a plea, because a plea provides absolute closure,” Leyton said. “There’s no appeal from a plea. Once a plea goes in, the case is over.”

And it’s over much quicker than waiting for a case to move through the courts.

“It can be very beneficial because they don’t have to go through the process of testifying twice ... without them having to go up there in a strange situation and tell their whole story,” said Paula Archambault, with Voices for Children Advocacy Center.

She and Kayla Bender serve as Child and Family Therapists at the Center. The two work with physical and sexual abuse survivors between the ages of 2 and 18.

They’re both in favor of pleas when necessary, explaining their clients do get a say and they can still make their voice heard at the accused’s sentencing.

“They’re seeing that their ability to be brave, to step up initially, has brought them this far, has brought justice,” Bender said.

Leyton said, right now, assistant prosecutors are handling 20 to 60 cases a day to work through the backlog. Plea agreements are making that massive caseload possible.

So are two new assistant prosecutors. His Office received a $100,000 grant to hire two former judges who are serving in that role.

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