BEND, OR -- Deschutes County prosecutors are currently working 10 open homicide cases, "It’s the highest number of pending homicide cases in Deschutes County’s history," says District Attorney John Hummel, "It’s too much; it’s far too much. We’re at a crisis point [and] my office is struggling to keep up." Even with last week’s conviction of Shantel Witt for DUII and Manslaughter, prosecutors are still working cases against 10 other defendants. including a husband and wife accused of starving their child in 2017 and a man who allegedly shot a woman at his Bend apartment on their first date, last month.
Hummel says the backlog can only partly be blamed on the region's growing population, "When you overlay that with too few judges and too few prosecutors, what happens is the cases take longer to resolve." Insufficient staffing at the D.A.'s office is his foremost concern, "We’re now at risk of not being able to well represent the state in serious cases of homicide, sexual assault, domestic violence cases. Something needs to change. I’ll be talking to the Board of County Commissioners about that during upcoming budget hearings, in May." Hummel tells KBND News if funding doesn't increase, he’ll have to cut services… that could include choosing not to prosecute some misdemeanors.
He’s also lobbying the Legislature to approve funding for an eighth Circuit Court Judge to create more room on the docket. The request has been made before, but was denied in favor of other counties. Hummel says it’s now Deschutes County's turn.