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Jury trials resume in Putnam County

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Potential jurors in Putnam County and the rest of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit will soon be receiving summons to court as the statewide suspension of jury trials has been lifted.

Chief Justice Harld D. Melton issued an order March 9 to lift the suspension of jury trials “effective immediately… if that can be done safely and in accordance with a final jury trial plan,” according to a notice from the Justice’s office.

Courts have remained open statewide since thee pandemic-induced emergency a year ago, but most hearings were conducted via Zoom or with very limited attendance numbers. Jury trials were suspended from March 14, 2020 until October 2020, but a significant increase in coronavirus cases caused Chief Justice Melton to resume the suspension on Dec. 23.

After the suspension was lifted, Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Bradley presided over Putnam County’s first jury trial Tuesday, March 16, which he said was a divorce case. Bradley and Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills both said Putnam’s courtrooms now feature Plexiglass partition shields around the various parts in front of the bar and in the well, including the judge’s bench and witness box.

“We’re trying to keep everyone safe as is mandated, and to adhere to the calendar call that was put out last year as we try to work around the high number of cases,” Bradley noted.