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Murder Case Backlog Easing Some; Victims' Families Still Agonize Over Wait

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FAYETTEVILLE — Justice takes time. For the families of murder victims, sometimes it takes too much time.

A backlog of murder cases in Cumberland County means murder suspects won't go to court for two, possibly three years.

Two high profile cases in Cumberland County -- the Luigi's restaurant and Burmeister murder cases -- convinced prosecutors to change the way they set murder trial dates. And as bad as the backlog is now, it has actually improved during the past couple of years.

"Can you imagine if your loved one was the victim of a homicide and it was two to three years before that case ever came to trial?" Asks Ed Grannis. "I don't know if I could contain myself it it happened to me."

And that's coming from the district attorney responsible for prosecuting murder cases in Cumberland County. He's talking about people such as Billy Hall. Hall's father, Vonnie, was shot to death in his car outside his body shop back in 1993.

Maurice Parker, a state trooper at the time of the murder, was charged in the killing three years later. But it's been 2-and-a-half years since then and Parker has yet to go on trial.

"It does keep the family upset, keeps you nervous, worries you constantly," Billy Hall says. "There's not a day that goes by that it's not brought up to me -- the fact that when are they going to do something. I get these questions all the time."

Parker is out on bond as he waits for his day in court.

"It really keeps you upset. Basically, you know that these people that are out there, they're out on bond eating steak dinners and living a nice easy life," Hall says.

But the Hall family isn't the only group of victims waiting for justice. On any given day, 50 to 60 murder cases are pending in Cumberland County.

"... The only real answer is there needs to be more prosecutors and there needs to be more judges and there needs to be more courtrooms," Grannis said.

"The General Assembly has been very generous and has given us more manpower, and we're making some progress. But when you start talking about dealing with 365 murders in eight years, that's pretty phenomenal.

"It's a bad situation. I don't think anyone has fully come to grips with how the violent crime has affected the court system in North Carolina. It's really a sad story."

With the new system, prosecutors now meet with judges and defense attorneys when setting murder trial dates. They say that process has relieved a lot of the backlog. Editor's Note:Maurice Parker is set to stand trial next month in the death of Vonnie Hall.

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John McDonnell, Reporter
Doug Bricker, Photographer
John Conway, Web Editor

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