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
Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 63°
Florence
Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 62°
Fayetteville
Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 60°
Decatur
Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 62°
Scottsboro
Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 60°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530744

Reported Deaths: 10978
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson764931522
Mobile40959804
Madison34735503
Tuscaloosa25749452
Montgomery24327589
Shelby23425249
Baldwin21123308
Lee15873171
Calhoun14496314
Morgan14288279
Etowah13826353
Marshall12213223
Houston10561281
Elmore10052205
Limestone9958151
Cullman9659193
St. Clair9652243
Lauderdale9420241
DeKalb8828186
Talladega8220176
Walker7231277
Autauga6918108
Jackson6809112
Blount6656137
Colbert6296134
Coffee5509119
Dale4830111
Russell440738
Chilton4284112
Franklin425682
Covington4118118
Tallapoosa4026152
Escambia393376
Chambers3560123
Dallas3547151
Clarke351061
Marion3116101
Pike310877
Lawrence300298
Winston274272
Bibb260564
Marengo249664
Geneva249477
Pickens234361
Barbour230757
Hale222877
Butler215969
Fayette212262
Henry188744
Cherokee184645
Randolph180141
Monroe177340
Washington167239
Macon158950
Clay156156
Crenshaw152257
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138753
Wilcox127030
Bullock123041
Conecuh110329
Perry107526
Coosa107228
Sumter104432
Greene92334
Choctaw60624
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 852841

Reported Deaths: 12255
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby956561619
Davidson89355933
Knox50675635
Hamilton44280494
Rutherford43046434
Williamson28015217
Sumner24012349
Montgomery20255225
Wilson18804234
Out of TN1840797
Unassigned16998134
Sullivan16794294
Blount15490193
Bradley15032150
Washington14597245
Maury13499172
Sevier13391175
Putnam11396175
Madison11168242
Robertson9756131
Anderson8760172
Hamblen8610173
Greene7877155
Tipton7359103
Coffee6905121
Dickson6840110
Cumberland6734132
Carter6634158
Gibson6526146
McMinn650898
Bedford6506128
Roane6282105
Jefferson6211124
Loudon613069
Hawkins6077107
Lawrence593887
Monroe584095
Warren554881
Dyer5425106
Franklin515090
Fayette506877
Cheatham455355
Obion454196
Cocke450099
Lincoln435763
Rhea434875
Marshall419058
Campbell415463
Weakley412865
Giles3996100
Henderson378976
White364170
Macon361978
Carroll361683
Hardin357167
Hardeman352664
Lauderdale318944
Henry318576
Claiborne318273
Marion312347
Scott312345
Overton301161
Wayne296334
Hickman284046
McNairy282054
DeKalb279654
Smith277839
Haywood271162
Grainger262850
Morgan250139
Trousdale250122
Fentress241547
Johnson240739
Chester214351
Bledsoe214211
Polk207824
Unicoi203549
Crockett203248
Cannon192031
Union190734
Humphreys179927
Grundy179334
Lake170326
Sequatchie169829
Benton166540
Decatur158639
Lewis158126
Meigs139125
Stewart132528
Jackson132036
Clay110131
Houston109333
Perry106628
Moore101117
Van Buren84723
Pickett76024
Hancock58912

Community Events