MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama Supreme Court’s moratorium on jury trials lifted this week, allowing judicial circuits to resume trials for the first time since March.
In Montgomery, trials will resume in November. Those who receive summons for jury duty can anticipate sizable changes.
Construction will still be underway, changing the front entrance to the building, along with other changes prompted by the pandemic.
“We are following CDC guidelines, and we are following those guidelines to the hilt," explained Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick.
Jurors will be able to prequalify online. Their arrival times for jury selection will be staggered.
“Now we won’t have to bring a lot of folks down to the courthouse at the same time,” stated Hardwick. “We’re excited about that aspect, utilizing technology. It’s something we’ve been wanting to do, so if there’s a silver lining to COVID, we get to do that.”
Jurors will be seated in the gallery to allow for social distancing along with ample hand sanitizer, protective equipment and routine sanitation in the courthouse.
Hardwick says with extensive safeguards in place, there’s no reason to dodge this civic duty.
“If you receive a summons and don’t show, I’ve got the ability to ask the sheriff to give you a ride to the courthouse,” Hardwick said.
As for the order of the cases, nine murder trials are scheduled for both November and December. Some are at least 3 years old.
“We are going to start with homicide cases,” explained District Attorney Daryl Bailey. “We have already got homicide cases selected that we are going to try this calendar year. It’s going to take us a while to catch up.”
Bailey says 2,000 cases are waiting to go before a grand jury, which resumes next week for the first time in five months. The cases that are indicted will already add to the growing case backlog.
“You hear people complain about crime in the city and all these things going on, this is an opportunity for them to come and have a voice in the court system,” Bailey explained. “Whether they find someone guilty or not guilty, that’s their voice. It’s so, so important. We can’t live like this with the cases being backlogged.”