RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina’s supreme court justice issued new emergency orders Thursday that delay jury trials through at least September and require face coverings in courthouses.
Chief Justice Cheri Beasley said senior resident superior court judges must develop comprehensive plans for jury trials to eventually resume in their districts.
“I have issued several emergency directives calculated to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina’s communities,” said Beasley. “Consistent with the Governor’s recommendations and the clear guidance of public health experts, requiring face coverings in courthouses is necessary to keep our courts open while protecting court personnel and the public.”
Each “Jury Trial Resumption Plan” must include:
- A confirmation that each court facility and any alternate facility to be used for court operations is in compliance with each of the Chief Justice’s emergency orders in response to the COVID-19 outbreak;
- A plan for summoning and excusing jurors, which allows for as much of the process to be handled remotely as possible;
- A plan for conducting voir dire with social distancing;
- A plan for conducting trials with social distancing in the courtroom for all court participants, including the jury, and in the deliberation room;
- A plan for daily screening of jurors, court personnel, attorneys, witnesses, and parties for COVID-19 exposure or infection;
- A plan for making face coverings available to jurors, court personnel, attorneys, witnesses, and parties;
- A plan for responding in the event that a juror, defendant, attorney, witness, judge, or other courtroom personnel becomes symptomatic, tests positive for COVID-19, or has a known exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 during the trial.
The plan must also be approved by a series of officials including the chief district court judge, sheriff, district attorney and public health director.
On March 13, Beasley postponed most all cases for 30 days. She has extended that order multiple times as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
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