Backlog of cases brings slow justice to some families

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M- Jury trials were suspended more than 5 months in New Mexico because of COVID restrictions causing a big back load of cases.

Athena Lopez and her family believe the backlog means slow justice for them.

"I’d like to be able to give a victim impact statement. I’d like to be able to tell people about Kayden," said Athena Lopez.

Cousins Kayden and Jakob Montoya were killed in 2018.

Police say a man driving more than 100 mph hit their car and instantly killed them in northwest Albuquerque, the night before Thanksgiving.

"We were originally given 18 months as the timeline for when we would see the end of this when there would be some kind of sentencing, but we were recently told it wouldn’t be for 5 years," said Lopez.

Representatives with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office said the delays were caused by the elimination of grand juries, suspension of trials, and now the number of trials are limited.

State court data shows in 2019 districts heard 604 jury trials, in 2020-436 and in 2021-321 trials.

"With these restrictions the data shows that there is, and will continue to be, a large backlog of cases which will take work to be initiated," said local prosecutors.

There is an order on how they plan to prioritize those cases – like custody status, trial length, and case age.

But for the Lopez family, a plan still isn’t action.

"If we’re feeling like this, I can imagine other families feeling similar,” said Lopez. "It’s unsettling, I think we deserve peace."

The Bernalillo County District Attorney office expects to release more data tomorrow, July 14, on how this impacts local criminal cases.