More Georgia counties suspend jury trials because of COVID surge

The Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, where jury trials have been suspended because of a surge in COVID cases. (Ryon Horne / rhorne@ajc.com)
Caption
The Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, where jury trials have been suspended because of a surge in COVID cases. (Ryon Horne / rhorne@ajc.com)

Credit: Ryon Horne

Credit: Ryon Horne

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Judges in two more Georgia counties where new COVID-19 cases are surging have canceled upcoming jury trials.

Two weeks of trials in coastal Glynn County and another trial next week in neighboring Wayne County have been canceled because of high transmission rates, Chief Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett said Friday.

“We have to ensure the safety of everyone who enters our courthouses,” said Scarlett, who was to preside over the Glynn County trials. “The virus is still on a ballistic trajectory.”

“We have to remain mindful that we compel people to the courthouse,” Scarlett said. “With things the way they are now, we have to make adjustments.”

Judge Stephen G. Scarlett, chief judge of the five-county Brunswick Judicial Circuit, has cancelled upcoming jury trials because of the surge in COVID cases. (Ryon Horne/RHORNE@AJC.COM)
Caption
Judge Stephen G. Scarlett, chief judge of the five-county Brunswick Judicial Circuit, has cancelled upcoming jury trials because of the surge in COVID cases. (Ryon Horne/RHORNE@AJC.COM)

Scarlett oversees the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, which comprises Glynn, Wayne, Jeff Davis, Appling and Camden counties. He said he did not anticipate holding jury trials over the next month.

Glynn County ranks third among Georgia’s 159 counties in the rate of newly confirmed COVID cases over the past two weeks, with 1,655 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The state average is 610 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks.

Because of the spike in new COVID cases and a corresponding increased death rate, Southeast Georgia Health System recently put a portable morgue on its Brunswick campus, the hospital said this week. It said 16 people had died of the virus at its Brunswick location during the past two weeks.

While new COVID cases in Wayne County are not as prevalent as those in Glynn County, they are still alarmingly high. Over the past two weeks, new positive test results were found at a rate of 1,111 cases per 100,000 residents, the state public health agency said.

The Georgia Supreme Court suspended jury trials statewide in March 2020. It allowed them to resume last October before halting them again in December when COVID cases spiked statewide. The court once again allowed them to resume in March.

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