ROCKINGHAM — The right to a speedy trial is enshrined in the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
However, there are some defendants in Richmond County who wait years before their cases are heard.
In a September 2015 story on inmate stays, the Daily Journal reported that Aaron Annoua Pinkney had been awaiting trial nearly six years. He was sentenced to state prison later that month.
(Note: Online records with the N.C. Department of Public Safety Division of Adult Correction were not available Wednesday evening.)
District Attorney Reece Saunders said that his office looks at the jail list every day and tries to dispose cases “as quickly as we can.”
“It keeps me awake at night,” he said, regarding the number of cases that have yet to be adjudicated.
Moving cases swiftly through the system is an “ongoing problem,” he added, saying “every case is different,” and there are several factors that could slow the process down.
One is the high rate of violent crimes in his district, which serves Richmond and Anson counties.
A list of inmates in custody at the Richmond County Jail from March 9 shows 17 defendants had been locked up awaiting trial for more than 260 days. Of those, six are accused of murder, four of attempted murder, three of assault with a deadly weapon and three of sex crimes against children.
Although jail records show Mitchell Green was first booked on Feb. 7, 2015, the list has him being in custody for 428 days as of March 9. Green is charged with murder in the shooting death of Terry Jay Smith outside The Sports Connection in Hamlet. Records also show he was moved to another facility per a safekeeping order, which could account for the shorter number of days in custody.
Brandon Lee Reynolds has been in jail more than 700 days, charged with first-degree statutory rape, first-degree forcible sexual offense and indecent liberties with a child. A charge of statutory sex offense with a child by an adult was dismissed in July. He is being held under a $250,000 secured bond and his next court date is scheduled for Sept. 4.
Kevin Orlando Bowe Jr., Devon Douglas, Arthur Ray Martin and Hyshawn Goodwin were all booked as juveniles.
Bowe and Jimiel Lindsey have been in jail since July 2016 when they were arrested and charged with the robbery and murder of Benovente Jesus Dominguez on a path off Biltmore Drive the previous month. Bowe was 16 at the time, Lindsey was 18.
Douglas, Martin and Goodwin are accused of shooting at an adult and 9-year-old child who were sitting at a picnic table in front of an East Rockingham home last June. They were all 17 years old at the time of their arrest.
Charles Terry has had the third-longest jail stay, according to records. He was arrested in September 2016 after he allegedly assaulted and robbed Daniel Ingram, who later died.
Walter Little, who had been in jail for 408 days on a robbery, kidnapping and burglary charges — in addition to a slew of breaking and entering and larceny charges, most of which were dismissed by the D.A.’s office — was sentenced to federal prison on March 22.
Adrian Campbell, who has been in custody more than 350 days, is currently being housed in the Anson County Jail. He is charged with attempted murder in a 2016 Hamlet shooting.
Other inmates who had been jailed more than 250 days on March 9 were: Diquon Cox (336, first-degree murder, first-degree arson); Marion Ellerbe (292, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, first-degree burglary); Randy Johnson (267, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, robbery with a dangerous weapon); Kevin McDonald (358, statutory rape of a child); Dallas Parrisher (323, indecent liberties with a child, sexual battery); Devonte Scott (266, robbery with a dangerous weapon, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury); and Steve Smith (389, three counts of first-degree murder).
(Note: The charges listed behind the defendants’ names do not reflect all the charges they are facing. All defendants facing criminal charges are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.)
“It takes a lot to get cases ready to go to trial,” Saunders said.
Although things are getting better, he said the backlog of evidence at the State Crime Lab has held things up in the past. Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that there were more than 15,000 untested sexual assault kits in North Carolina.
Another issue is the need for an additional assistant district attorney, he said. When the judicial district was split in 2014, Saunders said Stanly County got “the lion’s share” of ADAs.
According to each of the district websites, Saunders has seven ADAs for Richmond and Anson counties; and Stanly County District Attorney T. Lynn Clodfelter has five.
Sometimes, defendants will switch lawyers, which also slows down the process. When that happens, Saunders said, the discovery process —where prosecutors and defense attorneys exchange information about evidence and witnesses that will be presented at trial — has to start from scratch.
Despite the challenges of moving cases through the system, Saunders said, “We’re plodding away at it.”
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]