Justice Delayed and the Murder of a Texas Teen

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

There are a lot of infuriating facts surrounding the murder of 17-year-old Kayla Nicole Stevenson, who was stabbed to death in what police believe was a robbery attempt near the Galleria mall last weekend. Stevenson was on her way to work at one of her two jobs when authorities say 37-year-old Kaysone Sky Blossom accosted her; stabbing her two times and fleeing with the teen’s wallet, phone, and keys.

As it turns out, Blossom is no stranger to the law. In fact, she arguably could have been behind bars last weekend. In 2021, Blossom was arrested and charged with aggravated assault of a family member after allegedly shooting her ex-boyfriend with tear gas rounds and then slicing him with a knife. Not only was Blossom set free on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond, she has yet to stand trial almost three years later.

Records show 14 of Blossom’s court dates were reset. Eyewitness News also knew her trial date was reset five times.

She was scheduled to appear in court for her capital murder charge on Thursday morning, but she did not appear due to a medical hold.

“I feel that it could have been avoided if she wasn’t out on the streets so if she was behind bars like she was supposed to be, then my daughter will still be with me here today and her daughter,” Kylie Stevenson, Kayla’s mom, said.

ABC13 asked the DA’s office what the holdup was and they listed a number of factors including the pandemic and an attorney change.

The DA says at this point, to get this to trial, they need a mental competency report from an expert.

This is utterly ridiculous. I get that COVID caused all kinds of havoc with courts across the country, and any time there’s a change of attorney a small delay is to be expected so they can get up to speed on the case to date, but nearly three years after Blossom was first arrested the DA’s office hasn’t managed to evaluate whether she’s competent to stand trial?

At this point Blossom’s attorney has a pretty good argument that his client’s charges should be dismissed because her Sixth Amendment right to a trial without unnecessary delays has been violated, and she’s not alone. According to ABC 13, fully one-quarter of criminal cases in Harris County have been pending for more than a year, which means Blossom isn’t the only suspect accused of violent crimes who’s out on the streets while their trials have been repeatedly delayed.

There have been similar problems reported across the country in recent months. In New York, more than a dozen federal cases could be thrown out because the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York failed to file formal indictments within the 30-day window required under the law. In Riverside County, California an eye-popping 1,800 cases have been dismissed in recent months because (depending on who you ask) of a lack of judges or a lack of plea deals on the part of prosecutors.

While these delays have allowed some suspects to remain free for years without an acquittal or conviction, other defendants have been stuck in jail for months on end without a formal indictment, as was the case for a Mississippi man who recently had two cases dismissed after spending almost a year behind bars.

[LeMichael Keyon] Floyd was arrested Sept. 22, 2021, for aggravated assault. He was given a bond and made bail on that charge, [Judge Debra] Blackwell wrote. While out on bond, Floyd was arrested on a new charge of aggravated assault domestic violence on Oct. 5, 2022. He remained in jail since that second arrest, approximately 358 days.
“As of the hearing on Sept. 27, 2023, neither of the defendant’s cases have been presented to the Adams County Grand Jury, and he remains unindicted,” Blackwell wrote. “The Court finds that the defendant’s 358 days of incarceration since Oct. 5, 2022, is clearly presumptively prejudicial, and the state has failed to overcome that presumption.”
In Floyd’s case it doesn’t appear that COVID-related court closures are to blame. Instead, the judge pointed the finger at the Natchez Police Department, saying that the department had submitted incomplete files to the Mississippi Attorney General’s office.
There’s more than one reason for these lengthy delays, but none of them are particularly good excuses. Instead of city officials, county supervisors, state legislators, and congresscritters blaming lawful gun owners for violent crimes, how about they actually do their job and ensure that delayed justice doesn’t lead to injustices for the victims of violent crime and the public at large.