W.Va. courts reopen and hold trials
PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Courts in West Virginia reopened Monday morning and have resumed holding in-person trials.
Each courtroom must follow protocols set forth by the Supreme Court, which includes the requirement on face masks and mandatory social distancing.
According to the release from the Supreme Court of Appeals, all court participants have to wear masks or face coverings. In Putnam County, to preserve social distancing, Circuit Court Judge Phillip Stowers says he will not be holding criminal trials in his third floor courtroom.
“We have a larger courtroom in Putnam County. It’s the one that most people are familiar with when the election results come in,” Stowers said. “We think we can socially distance all the jurors we need in that courtroom.”
“The Constitution of West Virginia provides that ‘the Courts of this state shall be open’ and that justice shall be administered ‘without delay.’ Defendants’ rights relating to a trial by their peers must be respected even during a sustained health emergency. However, participation in such a trial, whether as a party, attorney, witness or juror, should not endanger anyone’s health.” said Chief Justice Tim Armstead.
Anyone determined to be high risk to contracting coronavirus may be excused from serving as a juror. This will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. A person cannot refuse to serve due to fear of COVID-19.
“Everyone in the courthouse is going to do the most they can do to protect your health and safety given the pandemic,” Stowers said.
Copyright 2020 WSAZ. All rights reserved.