ATLANTA — The YSL RICO trial is on pace to shatter records as the longest criminal trial in Fulton County history.
We've now entered the third month of jury selection and the trial itself is expected to take at least nine months.
And that time commitment could pose serious issues with who actually ends up on this jury.
“They’ve charged them under the RICO act so they're all connected. It’s like a circle, everybody’s connected -- all part of the same scheme, all part of the same conspiracy, and so you know, you don’t want to have to do that, you know, every single time for every single defendant,” attorney and former DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said.
James said trying multiple defendants at the same time like Fulton County prosecutors are in the YSL trial is done out of necessity.
“It’s like a puzzle, right? If you’re looking at a puzzle and a lot of the pieces are missing, you don’t really get the full picture and what the prosecution wants is for the jury to get the full picture,” James added.
In total, 14 defendants are standing trial - including rapper Young Thug, whose real name is Jeffery Williams. They're accused of using Young Thug's YSL record label to run a gang.
Hundreds of witnesses are expected to testify and prosecutors are trying the defendants at the same time, so witnesses won't have to be called back repeatedly. But, with the trial expected to be the longest in Fulton County's history and seating a jury is a major challenge.
“A lot of people are being asked to set aside six to nine months of their lives, and there isn’t a large group of people with a day-to-day lifestyle that can accommodate that,” said attorney Anastasios Manettas, who represents Miles Farley, one of the 14 defendants.
Three months in, the judge is still reviewing juror hardship claims, which could run until July. Attorneys still have to narrow down the pool after that - likely pushing opening arguments to the fall.
“It’s especially a big deal given that my client doesn’t have a bond and none of the defendants have a bond," Manettas added. "And so every day that goes by I feel that we’re being punished unnecessarily."
There’s also the concern about the manpower and financial toll.
“By the time this is done, I don’t know how many millions of dollars will have been spent that could’ve gone to social programs and actual issues in the community,” Manettas said.
“It’s expensive in terms of how much money it cost, in terms of taxpayer dollars," James said. "It’s expensive in terms of if you’re the DA and I’ve had to do it before, you have to move resources from one area of your office to the other area of your office, so there are other areas, you know, that may not get the attention that it would ordinarily get, and it's also expensive just in terms of the toll on you psychologically and physically.”
So is it all worth it? It depends on who you ask. The defense attorney 11Alive spoke to says no, explaining the defendant should have been tried separately to speed up the process. But the former DA says yes -- based on the crimes the defendants are being accused of committing.
They both agreed justice is always worth it.