When police arrested 31-year-old Jose Coimbre in August 2008, German Vargas was relieved. The man who had murdered his son would soon be sentenced, and justice would be served. After all, the crime had been caught on tape.
Vargas's son Ronney, 20, was a three-time Golden Glove boxing champion, and had just turned professional when he was shot by Coimbre in the street five years ago.
The video from a nearby surveillance camera showed a group of men blocking off Ronney’s car. One of the men, later identified as Coimbre, takes out a gun and shoots at the car several times. You then see the car stop and a figure crawls out. It’s Ronney. He’d been hit in the torso. Soon after, Ronney died on the ground in his friend’s arms.
Despite what appeared to be overwhelming evidence implicating Coimbre, his defense attorney, Patrick Watts, continually adjourned the case, and five years later Vargas was still waiting for a trial.
The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution says that the “accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” But that rings hollow in some parts of the U.S. where overwhelmed judicial systems are collapsing and the wait for justice is being extended.
But a speedy trial is not only unjust for the wrongly accused. Crime victims and their loved ones are paying the price, as well. Without speedy trials, cases drag on for years, extending their suffering.
This is what happened to German Vargas. His pain was compounded by having to sit in the same courtroom as the man who killed his son. He did this more than 40 times over the five years, as the case was delayed over and over again. And the adjournments were often granted for trivial reasons. Sometimes Watts would have a cold, other times he’d be on a different case. All the while, Vargas was expected to clear his daily schedule and turn up to court in the hope some progress would be made.
Fusion contacted Mr Watts several times and he refused to comment on the case.
“This circus has to end,” Vargas said before one of his last trips to the Bronx Court, “Because I am the clown in all of this, after five years why do I have to continue to suffer?”
Additional producing and research by Rayner Ramirez, Cristina Costantini, William Gallego.