ATLANTA — Jury trials will soon be able to start back up in Georgia with COVID-19 safety precautions in place.
On Tuesday, Georgia's Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton announced he would sign an order Saturday that lifts the suspension of jury trials.
“The blanket suspension of jury trials that has been in place since the March 14 Order is ended effective immediately,” the new order states.
In a news release, the Supreme Court said last month’s order authorized the resumption of grand jury proceedings at the discretion of the chief judge of each superior court after consulting with the District Attorney.
Officials said the new order will give the chief judge of each trial court the discretion “to resume jury trials, if that can be done safely and in accordance with a final jury trial plan."
Last month’s order also directed chief judges of a superior court to convene a committee in each county of the judicial circuit to develop a plan that outlines specific guidelines for the safe resumption of jury trials.
That plan must be in place before jury trials may resume.
They also added that the Judicial COVID-19 Task Force has been coming up with guidelines to help with safely restarting in-person proceedings.
“We have put into place rigorous safety protocols for grand jury proceedings and jury trials because we understand that the public must have confidence to come and serve on juries," Melton said in a news release. "It is paramount to all our judges that our citizens realize that their safety has been thoroughly considered.”
The news release states that the order points out that due to the time it takes to summon jurors, some hearings and trials may not actually start until a month or longer after the process for resuming them begins.
There is also a backlog of unindicted and untried cases; proceedings won't happen at the same speed as they did prior to the pandemic.