Dougherty Judicial Circuit prepares for trials to resume or possible shutdown

Dougherty judicial circuit prepares for trials to resume, or for possible shutdown

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Things are picking back up over in the Dougherty County Judicial Building as grand jury proceedings have been able to resume.

having grand jury trials is just the first step in the judicial process.

Since the process has been stalled for so long due to COVID-19, the district attorney said they have some catching up to do.

“A grand jury of citizens who are selected and paneled will review all cases that require their review, which are most felonies,” said Greg Edwards, the district attorney for the Dougherty Judicial Circuit.

Greg Edwards, the district attorney for the Dougherty Judicial Circuit
Greg Edwards, the district attorney for the Dougherty Judicial Circuit (Source: WALB)

If the grand jury finds probable cause, the defendant is then indicted.

The pandemic has delayed indictments.

“One case that was indicted was a case that actually happened on Thanksgiving of last year, 2019. In that instance, it was was alleged that Marcus Carter murdered his girlfriend who was identified as Nykeah Gilbert. And we just finally were able to have the grand jury just before this Thanksgiving, get to it,” said Edwards.

Now that Carter has been indicted, his case will go before a regular jury next.

The county plans to start phasing jury trials back in beginning in January.

“We still must go slowly and cautiously as we bring juries back in to hear jury trials. The grand jury part is pretty straight forward and we can accommodate that, but when we talk about juries, we’re talking about bringing in large numbers of people to be together. And we have to make sure they are safe,” said Edwards.

But this all could change if the Georgia Supreme Court decides to shut down judicial facilities again.

“The Supreme Court of Georgia is now going to be making some decisions about how we will respond to what may be an anticipated rise in COVID instances. What we’re doing is, of course, we’re prepping and we’re doing as much as we can in terms of non-jury matters that can be carried out without need of a jury. And there are many non-jury matters such as probation violation hearings and bond proceedings and many things like that they can be carried out without the need for a jury,” said Edwards.

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