WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — 396 days ago is the last time Wichita County held a criminal jury trial, creating quite a backlog of cases.
Many of those cases are child abuse, child sexual abuse and murder, according to Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie.
While victims and families wait even longer for these trials to begin, the Wichita County District Attorney’s Office wants to reach more victims than ever.
“You could imagine the number of child abuse cases, child sexual abuse cases and murder cases that have been on hold,” Gillespie said.
The hold on cases is also putting a hold on finding closure for victims and their families, but that’s where they find hope the victim assistance coordinator can continue helping during the pandemic.
“It really feels as if coming home, i really feel like this is my calling,” Wichita County D.A.’s Office Victim Assistance Coordinator Ebonie Daniels said.
Sometimes with these child abuse and child sexual abuse cases, victims will have to testify with the accuser in the courtroom, Ebonie Daniels is here ease that process.
Daniels is used to this, as she served as a victim assistance coordinator in Washington state, then worked at a child advocacy center before finding her home here in Wichita Falls.
“I’m there to support them, I’m there to kind of help ease their way and be their friendly face,” Daniels said. “Someone that can hold their hand and just someone who you can say everything’s going to be okay and you have this person here with you to help you through this hard time.”
Daniels has stayed in contact with families throughout lockdowns and backlogs, assisting in any way she can.
From talking to arranging therapy and counseling sessions, Daniels said she’ll continue at this pace until criminal jury trials are back and the flood gates are opened.
“Definitely working, getting through trials, we’re going to have a lot,” Daniels said.
The DA’s office has a lot of work left to do, but Gillespie said when they come out on the other side, Daniels’s impact will make a discernible difference in getting a hold of the backlog.
“I know as we come out of COVID, having her bright shining face and connecting these victims and with the services and the help that they need will help us more forward through this backlog and make a real difference in victims lives,” Gillespie said.
Not only will this help speed up the process for the district attorney’s office, but adding another indispensable tool for victims, guiding the most vulnerable at a time when they need it most.
“So much of the criminal justice system is focused on protecting the rights of defendants, and I am so glad that there is part of the criminal justice system that is focused on the needs of victims,” Gillespie said. “Especially the most vulnerable victims: children of child abuse and child sexual abuse.”