Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit set to resume jury trials
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - For a year and a few days, jury trials have been at a standstill due to the pandemic.
With Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton issuing a new order Tuesday, jury trials now have a green light to resume across Georgia and in the Chattahoochee Valley.
Superior Court Chief Judge Gil McBride says he is ready, once more, to have jury trials back on his docket.
“In our circuit, we will begin on Monday, March 15 with jurors to report to the Columbus Civic Center,” McBride said.
For jurors who are selected, trials will be held in the government center, but things will look different because of the pandemic.
“The jury will actually be seated in the gallery of the courtroom or what we refer to as the audience,” he said.
Spectators will be seated in the jury boxes, and witnesses, attorneys, and their defendants will be facing the jurors. McBride says this will be done so the different parties can observe body language in a safe manner.
With over 100 murder defendants waiting to hear their fate in a courtroom, the news of resuming jury trials is something District Attorney Mark Jones is looking forward to.
“Before yesterday, we could indict them with a grand jury but we could not hold a trial with a jury to hold them accountable if they won’t take a deal or plead guilty. It is definitely bringing accountability back to the circuit,” Jones said.
With the increase of violent crimes across Muscogee County, McBride says there will be a heightened focus on criminal cases.
Jones says it is his mission to bring as many cases as possible to trial to help resolve the backlog from the pandemic.
“We’ve got three judges that are able to try cases, so I want three trials,” said Jones. “You know people are saying that is crazy, that is unheard of, but I don’t care. “The trials have been delayed and we have to get the convictions to show that there is accountability if you do bad things in our community.”
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