Gavel

Grand jury proceedings and jury trials have been on hold in Georgia during the pandemic, but that may change soon.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton extended the Statewide Judicial Emergency this past week for a sixth time. But he said suspension of in-person court cannot continue indefinitely.

“Because grand jury proceedings and jury trials require the assembly of larger numbers of people, they have been almost entirely prohibited since the judicial emergency began,” wrote Melton. “As explained in the last extension order, this broad prohibition cannot continue, even if the pandemic continues, because our judicial system, and the criminal justice system in particular, must have some capacity to resolve cases by indictment and trial.”

Melton’s order authorizes the chief judge of each superior court, in his or her discretion after consultation with the district attorney, to resume grand jury proceedings as local conditions allow.

The order also directs each county to establish a local committee of judicial system participants to develop detailed guidelines for the resumption of jury trials in the county utilizing the safe jury trial guidelines being developed by the Judicial COVID-19 Task Force.

“It is anticipated that the next extension order on or about Oct. 10 will authorize superior and state courts, in their discretion, to resume jury trials as local conditions allow,” wrote Melton.

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