LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. – On Friday, Limestone County Presiding Circuit Judge Bob Baker announced that that jury trials will resume October 19, 2020.
Judge Baker says COVID-19 precautions will be in place.
The courts have been operating continuously throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, conducting virtual hearings via a secure ZOOM link in combination with live hearings when necessary on non-jury cases. However, the Alabama Supreme Court suspended all jury trials through September 14, 2020.
“We are one of the fastest growing counties in the state. Our caseload, including capital murder cases, has not slowed during the COVID pandemic. As presiding circuit judge, I must weigh the legitimate health and safety concerns of the public against the constitutional right to a trial by jury. Circuit Judge Chad Wise and I are keenly aware of the concerns of potential jurors and litigants posed by COVID-19, and we want to assure the public that we recognize their concerns, and are doing everything within our power to ensure that the proceedings will be conducted in the safest and most efficient manner possible.”
“Given social distancing, even our largest court rooms are simply not large enough to conduct jury qualification, voir dire, and jury selection. Therefore, until further notice, the potential jurors will be ordered to report, not to the Limestone County Courthouse, but to the Athens Senior Center, located at 912 W. Pryor Street, Athens, AL 35611. There, they will be placed in a large room where they can be socially distanced. Masks will be required, and will be provided free of charge if needed. Freestanding temperature scanners capable of checking temperatures will be utilized for all participants. Anyone registering a temperature of 100° or more will be asked to leave. Hand sanitizers will also be readily available. The jury selection process is not expected to take more than 3 to 4 hours. Potential jurors not selected will be excused. Those selected for jury duty will be asked to report to the Limestone County Courthouse to commence the trial. During the trial, the jury will not be seated in the jury box, but rather spread throughout the gallery of the courtroom. Likewise, the jury deliberations will not be conducted in the jury deliberation room. Instead, deliberations will also be conducted in the gallery of the courtroom. Jury summonses will include a link to Limestone County Circuit Clerk Brad Curnutt’s website, where potential jurors will find a video by Judge Baker with further instructions.”
“These are uncharted waters for us all. Every aspect of life has been severely disrupted, and the courts are not immune. I want the public to know that we are mindful of the health concerns that potential jurors will have. I want to thank Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks for making the Athens Senior Center available to the courts. Without his help, conducting jury trials would have been virtually impossible. Additionally, Limestone County Commission Chairman Collin Daly has been exceptionally cooperative with the courts during this pandemic. Finally, and most importantly, we thank the citizens of Limestone County for their willingness to fulfill their civic duty as jurors.”
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