The COVID-19 virus continues to affect nearly all phases of life on the Plateau and across the nation and, as reported earlier this week in the Crornicle, continues to affect the justice system across the state and in Cumberland County.
Earlier this week, the Tennessee Supreme Court announced that all jury trials be postponed because of the pandemic. Exceptions to the latest order are pleas and trials by judges and motions that may be carried out on the videoconferencing platform media of Zoom.
Criminal Court Judge Wesley Bray issued the following memorandum to clerks of courts in the seven counties that make up the 13th Judicial Circuit. They include Cumberland, Clay, Dekalb Overton, Pickett Putnam and White counties.
The memo states, “In an effort to keep the 'wheels of justice' moving and conform to The Supreme Court of Tennessee’s Order extending state of emergency and suspending jury trials (order dated Nov. 17), please know that I am available to schedule Zoom pleas, hear motions and to set and hold bench trials.
“Should you wish to do any of the above, or have suggestions to further your matters, please feel free to contact my office.
“I, truly, understand the gravity and effect this order has on the private practice of law. Please understand my office is prepared to facilitate matters forward within confines of the new order.”
The Supreme Court Order in a abstract way suspends habeous corpus — a defendant’s right to a speedy trial by a jury of his peers — and is further backlogging the pending cases on court dockets. Public health and welfare is in high regard of the court and bench trials are still an option.
In Cumberland County, jury trials set for December are expected to be placed back on the docket for rescheduling. Defendants who have questions about the status of their upcoming trials should contact their attorneys for instructions on how to proceed with their cases.