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Pandemic pauses jury trials, causing a delay in justice for shooting victim

Pandemic pauses jury trials causing a delay in justice for one Acadiana family
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Posted at 10:17 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 23:17:51-05

LAFAYETTE PARISH  — Last month, the state's supreme court suspended all civil and criminal jury trials until March because of COVID-19 concerns. However, for some victims and their families it means a longer wait for justice. Like the family of one shooting victim, whose loved ones say he died a hero.

In 2017 Christon Chaisson was shot and killed in downtown Lafayette. His family says he was trying to help a woman who was being assaulted by another man. During that encounter he was shot.

The suspect, Tyler Benoit, has been charged with second degree murder. He's been out on bond since 2017. A trial was originally set for this week, but has been postponed under the state supreme court's order. The dates for a trial have been pushed back twice since the pandemic began.

Grief and sorrow remain for Kelly Chaisson as she continues to cope with the loss of her late husband. She has been waiting patiently for justice to be served.

"Literally like a week before trial was supposed to happen, the world shut down," Chaisson said.

Trial was rescheduled for Feburary of this year, but was pushed back again.

"You're like, the hope is back," Chaisson said. "We're going to see this through because that's what Christon deserves and he always did. It's just sad. I don't want to say [Christon's] not to rest, but he's kind of like that."

She says the pandemic puts even more pressure on an already frustrating situation. When referring to the suspect involved in the shooting Chaisson said, "This person hasn't been in jail because there's a bond. That's almost four years of nothing. The person who did this had a child after this happened. This person was able to create life after taking life."

The case is one of many being impacted by the pandemic. Officials with the District Attorney's office say they understand what all crime victims are dealing with during this time.

"We're making sure that we're going to be ready when the order expires," District Attorney Don Landry said. "We're working on our cases. We're preparing to try our cases. We're lining up cases that we consider to be a priority case. Some of the more serious cases that we were trying to get to trial before the order came out. So we're using that time in a productive manner. We want to make sure we're ready to hit the ground running when that order is lifted."

A lifted order, Chaisson says, can't come soon enough.

"It'll close one part of the chapter in it, but I don't expect there to ever be full closure," Chaisson said. "Because it doesn't feel like that was supposed to happen. It's just tough to imagine the world keeps moving without [Christon]."