Halifax County court officials have announced that jury trials will soon resume.
Chief Justice Cheri Beasley suspended jury trials in March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In July the chief justice directed senior resident superior court judges to craft and submit local plans for the safe resumption of jury trials as part of the judicial branch’s efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to keep the public and court employees safe.
The first jury trials in Halifax County are expected to be held in January.
Jury summons will be sent in December.
“We want the public to know that we have implemented a number of safety precautions in consultation with local public health officials to make sure that anyone who requires access to the courthouse and those who are called upon to serve on a jury can do so safely,” said Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Alma L. Hinton. “We are grateful for the partnership with our county officials who continue to work alongside us to make sure our courts remain open, accessible, and safe.”
(An FAQ on the resumption of jury trials can be found at this link)
Chief District Court Judge Brenda Branch ensures “the courts are as safe as they can be. The local officials have put a lot of thought and hard work into making sure all our staff and the public are protected.”
District Attorney Valerie Asbell said, “ Since we resumed limited court functions in June 2020, the health and safety of the public and courthouse employees has been at the forefront of our minds.
“Along with Judge Hinton, we have worked diligently on the jury resumption plan. I believe the proper safeguards have been put in place to assure the public that court officials are doing everything within their control to keep our courthouses safe. As we navigate this process, I want to let the public and prospective jurors know that safety will always be our top priority.”
Halifax County Public Health Department Director Bruce Robistow said, “I have personally reviewed both the plans provided by the chief justice and I also evaluated the physical setup in person. I have all confidence in both the plan and the physical setup concerning the provision of a safe environment for all involved in the jury trials. A lot of thought, planning and resources have been extended to ensure the safety of all.”
Since March, Beasley has issued a number of emergency directives to guide court operations through the pandemic.
Those directives have, among other things, allowed many court hearings to be held by teleconference, waived certain notary requirements for court documents, and required social distancing and face coverings in court facilities.
In July, the Chief Justice directed senior resident superior court judges to begin crafting plans for the safe resumption of jury trials. The plans were to be crafted in collaboration with the chief district court judge, district attorney, clerk of superior court, public defender or defense bar, sheriff, and public health director.
Each plan was required to include several basic components, such as daily screening for trial participants, conducting jury selection, trial, and deliberations with social distancing, and plans for providing face coverings.
“I extend my deepest thanks to our elected officials all across North Carolina who have worked so hard to carefully craft these plans and tailor them to the needs of their local community,” said Beasley. “I want to reassure the public and all potential jurors that their safety continues to be our top priority.”
For the health and safety of the public, only those who have business with the court will be allowed inside the courthouse. The public is required to wear a face covering and may be required to answer screening questions, have their temperature taken or told to wait outside until their case is called.
Safety measures are in place at the Halifax County courthouse including providing hand sanitizer, social distance and cleaning of the public areas.
The hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.