Innocence

Young NYC Man Spent Five Years in Jail Waiting for Murder Trial and Was Acquitted

Thanks to court delays

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Donovan Drayton was arrested and accused of murder days after a 30-year-old man's bullet-riddled body was found in the doorway of a single-family home in South Jamaica Queens.

Drayton, a 19-year-old with no criminal record, said he was innocent. But given the severity of the charges, a judge refused to grant bail. So he was sent to Rikers Island pending trial. And there he waited.

And waited.

Drayton spent five years behind bars as a pretrial detainee. In July he was acquitted of murder. His case is the story of a court system so plagued by delays that the notion of innocent until proven guilty has been turned on its head.

Over the past decade, as New York City's backlog of felony cases has grown, so too has the time defendants are spending behind bars before trial. The average pretrial detention in a felony case was 95 days in 2012 — up 25 percent from a decade earlier, despite a drop in new felony cases, according to a recent report from City University of New York researchers. And some defendants spend significantly longer behind bars. Of the people who spent time in jail during 2012, about 3,200 were behind bars for a year or more awaiting their day in court, according to city data.

(Hat tip to Thaddeus Russell)