COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - It has been a little over a year since a jury trial was held in the Chattahoochee Valley.
The pause was brought on by the impact of the coronavirus. Now, court could be back in session for the Chattahoochee Valley’s more serious cases sooner, rather than later.
A back log of cases have accumulated, resulting in many cases being at a stand still for now. However, Superior Court Chief Judge Gil McBride says the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit is hoping to pick back up in the next few weeks if it receives the green light from Georgia’s chief justice, which seems very likely.
“We have continued to have hearings, we’ve continued to have bench trials, we’ve continued to handle pleas and motions, and other things that have come before the court, and the routine part of its business,” said McBride. “But we have not been able to have jury trials. There are certain things that simply do not happen in a courthouse until you start having juries come in and take a look at cases and getting cases moved. So, the chief justice has not given us the green light, but he has told us that we are likely to have the green light to go forward after March 9th.
The reason stems from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a pause for people to get their day in court. According to District Attorney Mark Jones, his office is working to cut down the docket and offer up deals to less violent offenders.
“You do not want to go to trial right now in this particular climate with all the shootings and all the violence going on,” said Jones. “All the citizens are pissed at the crime and they want action, they want something done. Obviously, you can’t do that on something like a murder case or something where someone has died, but on anything lesser than that, we’re really trying to get reasonable realistic offers.”
“Normally in this circuit, we have the ability to get trials in a reasonable amount of time, but the pandemic has held us back,” said defense attorney Stacey Jackson. “Some of those less violent cases, your property crimes, your drug cases, or what have you, a lot of those cases that might not necessarily have a victim.”
According to McBride, the type of cases jury trials will be focusing on is criminal cases, because those are entitled to priority under the Constitution. Trials are likely to pick back up on the week of March 15.