Special judges appointed to Hinds County courts to reduce backlog of thousands of cases

Updated: Feb. 10, 2021 at 7:02 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson’s escalating crime problems has prompted the Lt. Governor to work out a solution to address the backlog of cases in Hinds County.

The three branches of government came together to get violent offenders in court and off the streets.

Five million dollars in CARES money funded special judges and trials starting in July. The federal resources will continue to cover costs through December 2021.

Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann sees a correlation between record homicides in the Capital City and the backlog of cases before the Hinds County court system.

Wednesday he announced that three special judges will serve in the county to reduce the thousands of cases yet to be tried.

Two are former Supreme Court Justice Jess Dickinson and former Circuit Judge James Bell.

“All of us who live here are concerned about this,” said Hosemann. “We’re killing each other, and the people that are killing each other deserve to have a trial. And that’s what this is about.”

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph said the Lt. Governor, Governor, Speaker of the House and legislature provided CARES funding for judges, prosecutors and defenders.

“I went and met with the four circuit court judges and said, ‘What do you all see is the biggest problem?’” said Randolph. “It’s one problem that he just mentioned earlier and that there’s murder in the streets. We’ve got to be trying cases. We need help.”

Tuesday, Augena Funchess appeared in court accused of murder for a second time in two years. After Funchess was indicted in Hinds County she was released on $50,000 bond in the spring of 2019.

Her case will be heard before Judge Dickinson.

The judge will also be hearing 157 cases appealed from Jackson Municipal Court to Hinds County Court..

“We will address that old case. I won’t address the new case,” said Dickinson. “The district attorney... will receive the grand jury... proceeding and handle that case, but in terms of the case that was already on the docket, yes, that is a case I will address.”

The trials will be held in the Legislative Budget Hearing Room in the Woolfolk Building. Randolph said special judges began working in Hinds County in July.

They have closed 597 cases, an additional 170 cases were dismissed.

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