Jury trials to move forward following pandemic shutdown

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)–Many aspects of every day life came to a stop during the pandemic. This includes the courts system. But now, things are set to start moving once again.

Amid the pandemic, jury trials have been put on hold. But those trials could start up again within the next month.

“How do cases continue to move when there are no trials,” Andy Moorman with Moorman Law Firm said.

“I have an in person motion hearing coming up in May,” local attorney John Reckenbeil said.

But, that will all change soon.

“The courts are going to be starting back with jury trials my understanding is within the next week or two,” Reckenbeil said.

Trial attorneys have been at a standstill amid the pandemic, raising concerns about due process for defendants.

“When you don’t have trials, it makes it more difficult to make sure those rights are protected,” Moorman said.

And for those waiting for justice.

“Through no one’s fault, justice has been delayed to some extent again because you haven’t had jury trials,” Moorman said.

Moorman said some good has come out of this, including the ability to hold virtual bond hearings and guilty pleas.

“I think as a system we’ve learned that there are cheaper and more time effective ways to do our business,” he said.

Reckenbeil said jury trials need to be done in person.

“You have to have the ability to see a witness, hear a witness, cross examine a witness and let a jury see and judge the credibility of those witnesses,” Reckenbeil said.

He points to the ongoing Derek Chauvin trial as a good example.

“I think they’ve done a pretty good job in that they’ve put plexiglass and they’ve got space, I think a lot of our south carolina courthouses are old and antiquated, don’t have a lot of room.”

And Moorman has concerns about social distancing before a trial even starts.

“You’re gong to have 75 to 100 citizens come for jury duty. How do you social distance?”

He said at this point, there’s no more time to lose and cases need to continue moving.

“Witnesses move away, witnesses pass away, the condition of evidence changes,” he said.

As far as which trials move forward first, Moorman said he expects some solicitors to try simpler cases to see how a socially distanced courtroom will work. Others, he predicts will try cases that cannot wait any longer.

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