Chatham County court rehearses return to in-person jury trials

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Courts across Georgia are working on getting jury trials back inside the courtroom. The state faces a trial backlog of 2 to 3 years, in part because of the pandemic.

Attorney Falen Cox of Cox, Rodman and Middleton says the past year of virtual hearings have required lots of patience. “It has been challenging. We’ve had to shift the way that we do things, but thankfully with technology we’ve been able to move forward.”

Jury trials have been on hold, because of an emergency order from the Georgia Supreme Court. However, last week Chief Justice Harold Melton said it’s time to get juries back into the courtroom. On Tuesday Cox’s law partner Christopher Middleton participated in a rehearsal at the Chatham County Courthouse to figure out how to do that, safely. “We’ve adjusted the courtrooms, added plexiglass protections. We used and incorporated video mediums,” said the criminal defense attorney. “They really went through the Gambit in trying to pull together different components to try to move forward in that direction of trial litigation again.”

The statewide backlog has had the biggest impact on civil and criminal cases. This week Chief Justice Melton called on state law makers to suspend speedy trial deadlines through 2023, or risk judges being forced to acquit thousands of accused criminals.

The Chatham County court has not announced when in-person jury trials will begin.

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