BREAKING NEWS Alabama adds 798 new coronavirus cases; 134,231 cases confirmed since March Full Story

Some Madison County trials start next month, capital murder cases delayed until 2021

The presiding judge told us they're updating safety measures.

Posted: Sep 11, 2020 7:41 PM

WAAY 31 learned what changes you'll see when some jury trials resume in Madison next month.

The added safety measures will be put in place over the next few weeks.

Ruth Ann Hall, Madison County Presiding Judge, said she's been preparing for the return of trials for months. While some hearings were held virtually during the restrictions put in place due to coronavirus, some couldn't be.

She explained some Plexiglass barriers were quickly installed in courtrooms to keep people safe during hearings that needed to be held in-person. More will be added in the coming weeks.

Hall said they're one of the easiest ways to keep people safe without hindering testimony.

"If they don't talk succinctly and pronounce their words it will be very difficult to hear when they have a mask on, so as long as we got the plexiglass and maintaining distance we like to allow for people to take their mask off so we all can hear and understand the testimony," Judge Hall said.

Hall said under new social distancing rules only two courtrooms will be big enough for holding jury trials.

Before anyone gets there, Hall explained they'll have to go through a thermal scanner that will be installed at security. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees won't be allowed into the courthouse. She said only limited seating will be available in the courtroom. She said jurors will now deliberate in courtrooms, which will be locked to the public.

Judge Hall did say anyone who receives a juror summons will be required to fill out a questionnaire either online by using a PIN or requesting one by mail. It will include court questions and coronavirus questions to help keep large groups from gathering at the courthouse at once. Hall said the new process she thinks will become permanent.

Judge Hall also told us once the Madison County Service Center is complete and some services move out of the courthouse, they'll be able to quickly add make-shift court rooms out of office space on the first floor to help them get caught up on trials. That facility is expected to be complete early next year.

Judge Hall said eight capital murder cases that were scheduled to be tried this year. Now, they won't go to trial until 20-21 at the earliest. She said about half of the capital murder cases scheduled for trial this year were cases where the state is seeking the death penalty.

She said the decision to postpone capital murder cases until 2021 wasn't an easy one, but it was something that the judges decided was necessary because of safety concerns with coronavirus.

"A capital case is very stressful. For the lawyers, the families, for the judge. It's a very stressful event and some of the testimony can be very difficult to hear," she said.

Hall explained that because of all the work that goes into a capital murder case, it's important to make sure there's not a mistrial. They could run into that risk if the jury, attorneys, defendant or judge in a case gets sick.

"You certainly don't want to have to have a family or a defendant to go through that multiple times," she said.

She explained many with social distancing practices in place in courtrooms, there's not space for people who are usually there during a capital cases, like the victim or suspects family or members of the public.

She said once the cases are heard, the changes will make them different than the past.

"We will have technology available to where. They will be able to view the court proceedings in another area. Whether that's another courtroom, another room but it will be remote access," Judge Hall said.

She explained doing the entire trial virtually is not something that she feels comfortable with.

"We've done as many trials as we could by virtual hearings, but trials are something different. You need to be present in my opinion for trials especially one where you could be taking someone's liberty from them potentially," she said.

Hall said safety will continue to be a priority.

"We're doing everything to be careful, to be safe and move cases as quickly as we can," Judge Hall explained.

Judge Hall said she expects for these trials to take longer than usual. She explained because of the social distancing and safety practices, jury selection alone could take a least a week because they can't bring more than 100 potential jurors in the courthouse at one time.

Madison County will resume all other trials Oct. 19. Over the next month, they'll be evaluating any changes that need to happen as those start up.

Huntsville
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 70°
Florence
Overcast
71° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 71°
Fayetteville
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 68°
Decatur
Overcast
69° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 69°
Scottsboro
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 70°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19441349
Mobile13271291
Montgomery8778179
Madison775480
Tuscaloosa7496119
Shelby584951
Lee582961
Baldwin516550
Marshall390944
Calhoun346641
Etowah342047
Morgan325428
Houston278123
Elmore263247
DeKalb239120
Walker228483
St. Clair227837
Talladega212728
Limestone206120
Cullman188519
Dallas177426
Franklin175529
Russell17442
Autauga173825
Lauderdale168233
Colbert163626
Blount159415
Escambia158425
Jackson154611
Chilton153531
Dale135444
Covington134427
Coffee13078
Pike11879
Chambers115142
Tallapoosa114685
Clarke107717
Marion95729
Butler91339
Barbour8577
Winston73712
Marengo70820
Lowndes65327
Pickens65114
Bibb64210
Randolph63713
Hale62828
Lawrence60922
Geneva5995
Bullock59814
Cherokee59115
Monroe5818
Clay5707
Washington55613
Perry5407
Conecuh53111
Crenshaw53132
Wilcox53111
Henry4865
Macon48020
Fayette4438
Sumter43419
Lamar3632
Choctaw34612
Cleburne3396
Greene30315
Coosa1673
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 187690

Reported Deaths: 2312
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby30460452
Davidson26252298
Hamilton928791
Knox918175
Rutherford915088
Williamson516536
Sumner475896
Wilson341844
Putnam320139
Montgomery302244
Out of TN296825
Unassigned29145
Bradley289317
Madison280061
Sevier257015
Blount247723
Maury230923
Washington223935
Robertson219035
Sullivan212133
Hamblen188525
Tipton178118
Trousdale16517
Gibson160922
Hardeman154826
Wayne14905
Bedford132017
Dyer131813
Dickson123515
Cumberland117518
Fayette117418
Coffee116613
Weakley115719
Anderson115312
Henderson115322
Carter114728
Obion11389
Loudon11356
Greene112943
McMinn110025
Jefferson109714
Macon103520
Warren10267
Monroe102217
Lawrence101211
Hardin100516
Lauderdale95915
Haywood95418
Franklin9518
Lake9142
Roane8724
Carroll85819
Bledsoe8494
McNairy84218
White8139
Cheatham80610
Rhea79812
Hawkins78316
Cocke7419
Marshall7415
Overton7135
Smith69810
Johnson6752
Henry6139
Chester60910
Lincoln6031
Giles58017
Hickman5585
DeKalb55213
Crockett52919
Marion5187
Decatur5037
Fentress4713
Claiborne4405
Campbell4314
Polk38210
Grainger3633
Union3471
Benton3349
Jackson3175
Morgan3113
Unicoi2831
Cannon2800
Grundy2685
Humphreys2443
Sequatchie2293
Meigs2233
Clay2205
Houston2083
Scott2072
Stewart1902
Lewis1851
Moore1641
Van Buren1600
Perry1490
Pickett1102
Hancock1063

Community Events