Tifton Judicial Circuit preparing for jury trials to resume amid pandemic

Tifton Judicial Circuit preparing for jury trials to resume amid pandemic
A number of safety measures are being down to courtrooms, like the Worth County one above, as jury trials are set to resume. (Source: WALB)

TIFTON, Ga. (WALB) - The Tifton Judicial Circuit said they will be following all the CDC guidelines and came up with guidelines of their own to make everyone feel safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Superior Court Administrator Lindsey Foreshee said they will be taking temperatures and asking screening questions before those involved in court can enter the building.

“All of our jurors and court staff, everybody will be required to wear a face mask while they’re inside the courtroom and in the courthouse. We have installed plexiglass barrier, like you can see. All of our courtrooms will also be providing hand sanitizer as they come in the jury rooms,” said Forshee.

Depending on size, the Tifton Judicial Circuit is reconfiguring courtrooms to ensure proper spacing between jurors.

“We will use the gallery as our jury box. As you can see, those chairs are not six feet apart, but if we turn this into the jury box, we can seat them that far apart,” said Forshee.

Lindsey Forshee, superior court administrator for the Tifton Judicial Circuit.
Lindsey Forshee, superior court administrator for the Tifton Judicial Circuit. (Source: WALB)

She said they are ready for jury trials to start back up.

“Like every other circuit in the state, we have a backlog of cases, civil and criminal. We have defendants that have been sitting in jail for way too long and you know, we got to get those moving,” said Forshee.

If potential jurors don’t feel safe serving, the judges will handle the scenarios on a case-by-case basis.

“We will have a juror questionnaire form that goes out with all of our summons. If there’s a reason that they don’t feel safe coming in, there will be a contact number on there that they will call and inform the clerk of our office,” said Forshee.

Chief Public Defender John Mobley said it will be a challenge to navigate social distancing and masks, but that isn’t his main concern.

“The biggest concern is to make sure we have a big cross-section of the community. As we know, the virus has adversely affected other communities more than others,” said Mobley.

Tifton District Attorney Bryce Johnson and John Mobley, chief public defender for Tifton Judicial Circuit.
Tifton District Attorney Bryce Johnson and John Mobley, chief public defender for Tifton Judicial Circuit. (Source: WALB)

District Attorney Bryce Johnson said the way evidence will be handled will be determined case by case. He said evidence like documents will likely be able to be shared virtually with jurors if agreed on, but not all evidence.

“There may be certain evidence that we would actually want to put in that item but were going to try and do that as infrequently as possible so that we won’t have to have something passed around within the jury box,” said Johnson.

The first jury trial in Worth County is scheduled for April 26.

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