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Mike Peterson Trial Creates Logjam For Other Murder Cases

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Michael Peterson
DURHAM, N.C. — Durham prosecutors said they try to take non-capital cases to trial within 20 months, but a lack of resources, combined with the workload of the

Lois Cannady was killed June 5, 2002. The five people accused of killing her -- all under the age of 25 and arrested within a week -- are still behind bars, and the case is still months away from going to trial in Durham.

"I don't understand that. I don't know why it keeps being delayed," said David Cannady, Lois' son.

A judge recently agreed to a defense attorney's motion that the bond of one of the suspects, Gregory Lee, should be reduced.

"You know, my client has been in jail for almost two years now, and he's maintained his innocence from day 1," defense attorney Kirk Osborn said.

District Attorney Jim Hardin said there is a backlog of cases in his office.

"Some of it relates to how many homicides we have a year," he said. "But in this past year, we've had a couple of extraordinary things happen."

Hardin points to the Mike Peterson trial. The trial took three attorneys and more than five months.

"Certainly, it did influence the rest of our caseload," he said.

Hardin also said some cases have unique circumstances that can delay a trial. The Cannady case is complicated by the number of suspects.

"When you've got to deal with five co-defendants, you have five cases you have to deal with in some fashion," he said.

In many cases, prosecutors have to wait a year or more to get forensic test results.

"Because of the tremendous backlog at the State Bureau of Investigation, because of the resource constraints they operate under, until they get that resolve, we're going to be in this position more and more," Hardin said. "Two to two-and-a-half years for a complex murder case is not unusual."

That news is not something David Cannady wants to hear.

"I go to bed at night (and) when I close my eyes, this is on my mind," he said. "When I wake up, it's the first thing that's on my mind. I don't know if we'll ever get any closure to it."

The first suspect in the Cannady case probably will not go to trial until this summer. Hardin said his office is ready but he said motions and maneuvers by defense attorneys can cause delays. He also said the state dedicates only 2.5 percent of its budget to the court system, which means his office has 13 attorneys to tackle the nearly 60,000 cases they get every year.

Durham County officials said they have 48 pending murder cases. Many of those involve one victim with multiple suspects, which can result in multiple trials such as in the Lois Cannady case. The oldest case dates back to 2000.

In Wake County, there are 36 murder trials. The oldest case dates back to October 2002.


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