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Speedy Trials Victim of Pandemic

Kansas legislators are working to give prosecutors and courts time to clear a backlog of several thousand criminal cases that built up during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Senate approved, 32-7, a bill that would suspend until 2023 a law aimed at protecting defendants’ constitutional right to a speedy trial.

The law requires cases to come to trial within five months of a defendant who has been jailed entering a plea, and within six months if the defendant is free on bond.

Lawmakers have said there’s a backlog of about 5,000 criminal cases, and prosecutors worry that many of them will have to be dismissed if the deadlines are not suspended.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Kellie Warren said, “It’s a solution. It’s not ideal, but it’s that ‘something’ that we still need.”

Some Republican conservatives and Democrats are nervous about suspending the deadlines, worried that defendants will languish unnecessarily in jail.

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