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"If we can’t handle jury trials, we’ve got problems” | Shelby County D.A. weighs in on lack of jury trials during pandemic

Normally, they have about 200 jury trials every year. This year there have been 20.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — You won’t find many busier places than the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office. After all, this is the busiest judicial district in the state.

Normally, they have about 200 jury trials every year. This year there have been 20.

District Attorney Amy Weirich said, “I hope that we are going to be able to get back to jury trials soon, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon.”

Weirich said victims and their families are being affected by the pandemic jury trial ban.

“There are many victims who are not getting their day in court because their case can’t go to trial right now.”

Administrative Judge Lee Coffee isn’t very optimistic about the future. The Tennessee State Supreme Court wants to resume jury trials in February.

Judge Coffee said the way Shelby County Courtrooms are designed, it would be impossible to have a judge, a clerk, courtroom personnel, a 12 member jury, lawyers, the defendant, witnesses, family members, and security - and have them social distancing between six and ten feet apart.

And that’s not all.

District Attorney Weirich said “We’ve got this backlog that we’re sitting on now - because we haven’t tried a jury case since February. And you throw on top of that a record number of homicides, a record number of aggravated assaults, and the fact that violent crime is rising.”

Weirich said trials could be held at other locations, but then there would be security concerns.

“There’s no playbook for what we’re experiencing right now. There’s no handbook I can pick up off the shelf to say expect it to look like this. But with every day that passes, with every week that goes by, if we can’t handle jury trials, we’ve got problems.”

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