When the COVID-19 pandemic started in Washington State in March of last year businesses and activities were locked down the courts were also closed. That's had a huge impact on Yakima County Superior Court. Municipal and Superior courts were shut down and jury trials were put on hold. Today Yakima County Prosecutor Joe Brusic say things are starting to get back to as normal as possible under the current COVID-19 restrictions. After a long absence jury trials resumed the third week of September in Yakima County. But that has created a huge backlog of pending felony cases nearly doubling because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Yakima County Prosecutors Office says there are 3,300 cases awaiting trial as of Today. Brusic says normally they have about 1,500 cases that are backlogged but he says the pandemic has really impacted the local court system.
It's the same in other parts of the state. According to the Associated Press King County has a backlog of 6,450 cases when it usually averages about 3,200.
In fact in that county the number of cases in backlog that involve high risk crimes like murder rape and domestic violence is now up to 2,800 from 1,700 before the virus hit the state.
Yakima County Prosecutor Joe Brusic says they continue to try and work through jury trials as best they can under current restrictions. Jury selection is being handled at the Yakima Valley Sundome to help create space between potential jurors. He says currently 1 criminal trial a week in happening in Yakima County Superior Court.