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Pandemic delays high-profile criminal cases in SWFL

Criminal cases have been stalled by the coronavirus pandemic, so there has been no due process for suspects and families left waiting for answers.

We looked into the argument for safety over justice in Southwest Florida Friday.

There have been some high-profile cases delayed in Southwest Florida:

  • Jorge Guerrero is accused of killing 9-year-old Diana Alvarez
  • Wade Wilson is accused in the murders of Kristine Melton and Diane Ruiz in Cape Coral

Both defendants haven’t seen the inside of courtroom in months due to the pandemic.

“It’s difficult for me to give you a hard and fast number right at the moment about what the backlog is,” said Paul Flemming, the public information officer for Office of the State Courts Administrator in Tallahassee. “It is fair to say it is a big deal.”

Judge Jospeh Foster in Collier County hopes the process will get back on track soon.

“We are trying to limit the number of people who have to come to the courthouse,” Foster said. “So we are doing more and more of our business this way remotely, you know on the telephone or via Zoom.”

There have been some virtual status hearings, such as for Wisner Desmaret, who is accused of shooting and killed Officer Adam Jobbers-Miller of Fort Myers Police Department.

“Obviously we want everybody’s constitutional rights to be protected,” Foster said.

But jury trials are still suspended.

“You can choose to go to a restaurant; you can choose to a grocery store; you are forced to come to court,” Foster said. “So, if we’re gonna make you come see us, we need to make sure that we’ve made the situation as safe as humanly possible.”

Once jury trials do resume, the court tell us they will include masks, social distancing and lots of hand sanitizer.

Reporter:Rachel Cox-Rosen
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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