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Family waits 6 years for justice
BEAUMONT-By: Leslie Rangel
A 500 case backlog in the 252 district court caused one family to wait years for the person responsible in their son's death to go to prison.
Today, that man will spend the next ten years in jail after pleading guilty to a 2008 hit and run of a 20-year-old Beaumont man.
Investigators say he was also intoxicated.
After the long wait, the family finally has closure.
Six years, one month and twenty-seven days after Michael Gatlin was hit by a truck and left to die, his family is glad the person responsible is behind bars.
"Right now, it's really surreal, it doesn't seem real because waiting so long, after a while you just get used to waiting," Lola Gatlin, Michael's sister said.
Their case was reset twenty-five times since John Alexander confessed to the crime in 2008.
Gatlin was walking on Highway 105 when Alexander hit him with his truck. He died.
Alexander pleaded guilty to a DWI and failure to stop and render aid, receiving ten years in prison for each count.
"I can't say that that's enough time or not I just don't want him to hurt anyone else, I mean time does not equate a life," Gatlin says.
Time is what Gatlin says hurt her family the most.
"When you see other trials and cases go before your case and when you um sit and watch reset, it hurts," Gatlin said.
The presiding judge over the case offered an apology to the family in court.
"I was shocked when she said they'd had 25 settings for the case, that made me feel bad for the county, because that's not what we do and that shouldn't happen," Judge Bob Wortham says.
He says under the previous judge, 500 cases were backlogged, including the Gatlin's.
"The hardest thing for me is watching that lady and her daughter as the tears were flowing down their face because they had to wait so long," Wortham said.
A wait this family says was worth it.
"If had to sit another 100 resets, I would gladly do it because he meant that much," Gatlin said.
Judge Wortham first handled the case after Judge Layne Walker stepped down. He says the backlog meant more than 250 people were waiting in jail for trials.
Wortham says that's costing taxpayers because they have to pay to house the inmates, so the court is currently working to clear all backlogged cases.