Valerie Pearce
Valerie Pearce, an assistant district attorney in Pitt County, sits in front of the courthouse in Greenville. She describes facing a substantial backlog of sex-crime cases that have been delayed. Calvin Adkins / Carolina Public Press

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Welcome to The Kicker from Carolina Public Press, a North Carolina news show bringing you conversations with journalists, sources and newsmakers from across the state.

In this episode, Carolina Public Press managing editor Frank Taylor talks with lead investigative reporter Kate Martin about her recent findings on how long sexual assault cases take to move from arrest to resolution in the North Carolina court system.

Martin found that the average sexual assault case takes much longer to move through the courts to resolution than the typical criminal case in North Carolina. She talked with prosecutors across the state and others about why this happens. Defense attorneys in sexual assault cases often employ a strategy of trying to wear down accusers by seeking repeated continuances in cases. The forensic evidence in many sexual assault cases often takes time to test. Even if law enforcement tested the evidence in order to make an arrest, afterward the defense often wants to verify the findings through retesting.

However, other problems come from court procedures and the lack of court dates in some jurisdictions. In addition, whereas some large jurisdictions like Mecklenburg have less delays due to specialized prosecutors who work with sexual assaults, this is not the case elsewhere, especially in districts with more limited resources.

Martin’s reporting on the lagging cases is a follow-up to CPP’s groundbreaking collaborative investigative series, Seeking Conviction, produced through a partnership of 11 news organizations across North Carolina in March 2019.

About The Kicker

The Kicker is a production of Carolina Public Press. It also airs weekly at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on WPVM radio 103.7 FM in Asheville. Send an email to if you would like to contact the staff of Carolina Public Press about The Kicker.

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