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Families wait for justice as Pima County Attorney weighs options for safe jury trials

Posted at 10:25 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 00:27:08-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — 2020 was a year to forget for most families.

"Our children were innocent, they didn't do anything wrong, Deborah Garcia said.

Memory matters for these families.

"I'm never going to forgive you for what you did to my mom," Melissa Rosas said.

Rosas, Garcia and Julie Festerling have plenty to remember and just as much to want to forget.

Garcia and Festerling lost their children, Caitlin Festerling and Paul Garcia, in a car accident here, back in November 2019.

Police said a distracted driver slammed their car into an oncoming truck.

Rosas and her family lost Beatriz Alvarez, her mother, when police say she was struck by a drunk driver here on a walk home.

"My heart is with them and my gratitude is with them for their patience," Laura Conover said.

Conover will remember November 2020 as the month she was elected Pima County Attorney.

A fresh face leading the office after more than two decades under her predecessor.

"We've been saying that for a really long time that it's just been really frustrating," Festerling said.

A backlog of trials at Pima County Superior Court has delayed any chance at justice for these families and others.

"We've been waiting a year, for justice and our family needs closure," Rosas said.

Chapters in their lives they'd prefer to forget lay at the mercy of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Until we can get a handle on it, it's not safe for any of us to be in the courthouse building in any kind of normal capacity," Conover said.

Pressure is on the new County Attorney to get trials started, again and safely.

"We're hopeful that she's going to help us get justice for our children," Garcia said.

"Seven times, postponed seven times," Rosas said.

The suspect in that case is out of jail on bail.

Conover said she wants these families to get their justice, even pledging to scrap pre-trial hearings to clear out the court's backlog.

"...so that we do have the time and place for critical, essential hearings that must go forward." Conover said.

Finding any way she can to go forward, she said, considering even a change in venue.

"Researching alternative locations to hold a jury trial, for example, that might be bigger and safer than the courtrooms we have."

She stopped short of offering a timetable when trials will start in Pima County again.

Like most of us, these families would like to forget 2020 but it will always remain a memory of the year their late loved ones missed out on justice.

"It just hurts to the core; it turns into patience and then it turns into being angry," Rosas said.