New Orleans man locked up nearly 8 years awaiting trial, then drug case gets tossed

Matt Sledge:

When Kevin Smith was jailed on a drug charge in New Orleans in 2010, Blockbuster was still renting DVDs and President Barack Obama was still trying to pass his signature health care bill.

Smith’s case never went to a jury. On Monday, 2,832 days after he was locked up, Criminal District Court Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier ordered Smith’s release, bowing to an appeals court ruling that prosecutors had violated his right to a speedy trial.

Her decision represents an extreme example of how slowly the wheels of justice can grind in Orleans Parish while defendants sit in jail. All sides involved in the complicated saga point fingers at each other for the delays. No one can guarantee it won’t happen again.

Smith, 51, who is supposed to go free within a few days, has served more time in custody than any other New Orleans inmate awaiting trial for a nonviolent crime.

“If you’ve been in jail for right at eight years on the same charge and it won’t go to trial, that’s injustice,” said Smith’s cousin, Michael Smith.