Jury trials may resume in Decatur County

Published 9:05 am Monday, October 5, 2020

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When COVID-19 hit, many aspects of normal life were put on hold. Businesses had to either close or alter their services, while people began donning masks and sanitizing their hands. Sudden changes also came to the judicial system, with all trials requiring a jury to be present being postponed. This has gone on for months, but the end may be in sight.

Clerk of Court Cecilia Willis, while not able to disclose exact dates for when jury trials would resume, has been working on ways to have juries meet, while still following social distancing and health precautions. One issue is protecting jurors from their fellow jury members, or more specifically, the COVID they may carry.

“We could easily put a sheet of Plexiglas between these seats,” Willis said, gesturing towards the old wooden chairs. “But if we tried to put a sheet back here, we’d be blocking the walkway,” referring to the jury’s back row.

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Currently she is considering using the first row of audience seating as jury seating to keep people apart.
If a person selected for jury duty tests positive for coronavirus, that is a valid reason for absence from jury duty. However, this makes assembling a full jury more difficult.

Another problem posed by health and social distancing requirements is presenting of evidence. As attorneys would not be allowed to get too close to jurors, and passing evidence from juror to juror is also not allowed, Willis plans to acquire large-screen TVs to display evidence.

Indeed, there are still many difficulties that may postpone jury trials, and when they do resume, they will not look the same as they once did. However, for people who have had to wait in jail or on bond for most of the year, their day in court is finally drawing near.