Many courts across the United States have begun to resume in-person proceedings for cases that may have built up during quarantine and stay-at-home orders. This includes South Carolina, where State Supreme Court Chief Justice Don Beatty announced that courts could return to normal scheduling and in-person hearings on September 21. However, some legal and medical experts warn that a return to in-person operations could present complications for jury trials.
One concern is that fear of Coronavirus exposure may make individuals less willing to serve as a juror. As a result, some courts may not be able to obtain jurors jury that are representative of the community. Additionally, anxiety around the pandemic could interfere with a jury member’s ability to be fully engaged in a trial. Because of this, a defendant might receive an unfair or biased jury for their case.
Coronavirus concerns have presented complications for courts across the country. In Texas, certain courts reopened in June but later had to postpone jury trials due to increased health concerns. Other states have implemented limited in-person proceedings or adapted operations to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. In the majority of jurisdictions, jury trials have been postponed altogether.
Prior to the South Carolina Supreme Courts announcement, courts in Aiken, Horry, and Laurens counties had resumed some in-person jury trials in late August. Cases in these counties were selected based on several factors. Specifically, those that were expected to be tried in a few days or those with few witnesses were considered. Additionally, courthouses resuming in-person jury trials implemented several safety features, including temperature checks, mask requirements, and social distancing measures. However, these reopenings are premature and dangerous for the potential jurors, defendants, court personnel, witnesses, and lawyers. Medical experts agree that there is no way to eliminate the lethal risk of the airborne Covid-19 virus in an enclosed courtroom.
Many people have questions about how COVID-19 could affect their case. An experienced criminal defense attorney from Adams & Bischoff, LLC could examine the specifics of your situation and help navigate the best path forward. To speak to a member of our knowledgeable legal team, contact us today.