Delays, denials and disappointment. Those are words some local crime victims use to describe the Dallas County Criminal Court system. They claim their cases have been lingering for years and it feels like the system is abusing them and victimizing them all over again.
"I get a knock at 7:30 am and it is the Rowlett police and chaplain," said Stephanie Cook.
It was December 2008 and Cook was facing the unthinkable.
"This is a mistake," she said. "He cannot be dead. He just left for work."
Kirk Cook, her husband of nine years was killed instantly at an intersection in Rowlett. Darrell Wayne Bullard, who was 19 at the time, was charged with intoxication manslaughter. The police report showed his blood alcohol was 0.18, more than twice the legal limit. Tests were also positive for depressants and marijuana.
"It has been hell," said Cook. "We had plans, we had a future. That is all gone."
She wanted justice for her dead husband and thought she'd get her day in court quickly but months of waiting turned into years.
"I have heard the cases in jail come first. The attorneys have put it off. The assistant district attorney before me dropped the ball. It is just excuse after excuse," claims Cook.
The court file shows delays in the case right from the start. Police could not question Bullard until March 2009 because he was injured in the wreck. He was not indicted until July. Then there were attorney changes on both sides. There were 17 delays in total.
"Why, why is it taking this long?" asked Cook. "What are you all doing? Where is my tax money going? What are you doing?
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins's office would not comment because the case is pending. The judge did not return calls. Bullard's attorney, who also declined an interview request, says his client does not remember what happened because of his injuries.
And he says there was no witness which means there is still a question of who was at fault.
"It is retraumatizing," said Jeanette LaFontaine, of Trauma Support Services of North Texas.
LaFontaine says the delays eat away at a victim. Many cannot get on with their lives until the trial is over.
"It is like you are in limbo. It is like there is no resolution. It is looming out there and you cannot move on," LaFontaine said.
Darlene Roberts said a former employee broke into her home in May 2007. She ran to a back bathroom.
"He busted down that door and started choking me," she said.
Roberts did not want to identify her attacker, fearing retaliation. He has been charged with felony injury to the elderly. He confessed but then withdrew his guilty plea, claiming his innocence.
For four years, he was free while Roberts lived with the blinds shut and a gun constantly by her side.
"I live in lockdown," claims Roberts. "You will never come by here and see my door unlocked."
She said she feels like a prisoner in her own home.
Finally stressed out and worn out, Roberts agreed not to object if the prosecutor made a deal with the defendant for probation.
"I am tired of it," said Roberts. "I weighed the pros and cons. Let's get it over with and get it done."
The district attorney's office also asked Cook if she will accept probation for her husband's accused killer. She said no.
"This is for him. He deserves some peace, some justice," she said.
Robert's case is set for sentencing next week. She hopes for some restitution to help with medical bills and repairs to her home. Cook's case is set for trial January 2012.
KDFW FOX 4
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