COVID-19 concerns cause months long delays for jury trials
ATLANTA - Jury trials and most grand jury proceedings have been paused since March in Georgia due to concerns about spreading COVID-19.
Alan Holcomb, an attorney with The Law Center, and his clients have no choice but to wait.
"Our clients, they're the ones that actually need the medical care. They're the ones who have actually been harmed and the only way they can get compensated or be made whole for their harm is through the jury system. This is the only avenue they have," Holcomb said.
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The Supreme Court of Georgia issued an emergency judicial order in March and has extended the order until at least October.
Holcomb says some of his clients are in serious need of medical treatments or surgeries, things that won't happen until it becomes safe enough for the Supreme Court of Georgia to allows jury trials to resume.
"We've tried to be proactive about it and we've tried to come up with creative solutions to keep the cases moving so that when the courts eventually open back up, we're ready to go. There is no more work to be done and we can get to the jury trial as quickly as possible," Holcomb said.
He says it could now be two to three years before newer cases are brought in front of a jury.
This delay could do more than cause a backlog in trials, it could be in violation of the sixth amendment, which gives a person the right to a speedy trial.
"I do see it causing problems. The longer that criminal defendants, in particular, are given their day in court, the higher the risk that there is a constitutional violation," Holcomb said.
Holcomb says it's not clear right now what jury trials will look like here in the state when things are allowed to start back up, but will look to other states who have resumed jury trials.
He says the state of Georgia is in the process of putting together guidelines and a road map to get back to jury trials in a safe manner.
The guidelines include things like spacing out the trials to limit the number of people who are in a courthouse.
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