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Jury trials in the Shoals paused for COVID-19 safety precautions

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 9:49 PM CDT
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THE SHOALS, Ala. (WAFF) - As the surge of COVID-19 cases fills up hospitals across Alabama, jury trials in the Shoals are being pushed back.

When you walk into the Lauderdale County Courthouse you’re going to be required to wear a mask but that’s not the only precaution the judges are taking to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We have enough danger that is built into this profession under normal circumstances given often times the people that we’re dealing with and the emotions that are often prevalent in court cases. To add another layer of a disease, of a pandemic to it, it complicates matters,” said Judge Gilbert Self.

Matters of keeping people safe.

Because of rising COVID-19 numbers Lauderdale County’s presiding judge pushed back criminal jury trials.

Judge Self said that he made the decision to push back the jury docket because of low vaccine rates, increasing hospitalizations, and kids returning to class.

“I didn’t feel it prudent to expose them to each other and to expose them to everyone who works in this building to those individuals,” said Judge Self.

He said that together, Lauderdale County’s four judges preside over 75 hundred cases and about 2000 jury trials each year.

“Those other five thousand are still moving along as always. I had a hearing here in my courtroom today. We socially distanced. I limited the number of spectators. We limited witnesses in the courtroom. I can manage a hand-full. The problem is managing 150, 200 potential jurors that are reporting,” said Judge Self.

One of the major cases that’s being pushed back, Jenise Spurgeon, the Florence foster mom accused of abusing children in her care.

He said jury terms will begin again soon with more social distancing.

“Our next jury service will begin in October and then November and we’re going to bring that venire again to the Florence coliseum,” said Judge Self.

The august jury term at Colbert county courthouse that was set to start this week is also canceled.

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