UDPATED: Jury summons, trials to resume Oct. 19 in Cherokee County

by Jo Anne Embleton news@thecherokeean.com.


According to Leslie Lankford, court administrator for the 2nd Judicial District Court, jury duty set for Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in the 2nd District Court located in Rusk, has been canceled.

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CHEROKEE COUNTY – A number of area residents who have been notified by the local district clerk’s office about jury summons and trials resuming next week can expect to see things done a little differently, said officials.

“With jury selection, we’re ordering people to come in, and since its not voluntary, we are trying to take as many precautions as we can to avoid any risk of exposure” to the coronavirus, said 2nd District Court Judge Chris Day. “We don’t want anyone in harm’s way, and we’re probably taking more precaution than the people are used to seeing in Cherokee County.”

The Office of Court Administration establishes the rules for conducting these processes; when a national pandemic was announced in mid-March because of COVID-19, the agency “entered new emergency orders, modifying them (as needed),” Day said.

Working with OCA and Cherokee County Medical Director Dr. James Low, local district courts – the 2nd and the 369th – were able to resume these processes this month.
Jury summons were sent out at the beginning of the October, as were a separate letter seeking information about whether an individual has been in contact recently with someone testing positive for COVID-19. The individual is able to mail their response using a self-addressed stamped envelope, or submit it via email or over the phone to District Clerk Alison Dotson’s office.

The jury selection is for one of three potential jury trials in 2nd District Court; summoned will meet at 8 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19, reporting to the second floor hallway.

This first jury summons will be held at the Cherokee County Courthouse “because it doesn’t really require a super-large panel,” Day said. “With larger panels, the courtroom – which normally holds 150 in the gallery – can only hold 69 people, at most, under the COVID-19 plan.”

Should a trial require larger panels, the selection process will be held at the John Alexander Gymnasium in Jacksonville to allow for necessary COVID-19 precautions.

“Everything is going to be different when people come in,” he said. “Just make sure to look at the summons closely to know where to report.”

Those who show up for a summons can expect to have their temperature checked and to fill out a pre-screening form before entering the courthouse; once inside the courtroom, they will required to wear a mask. Face shields will be distributed by staff so that individuals can lower their face masks to communicate more easily.

Meanwhile, those ages 70 or older still can claim an automatic exemption, while those younger than that who have concerns about possible exposure to the virus because due to health conditions or other reasons can let staff know by indicating it on their form or by calling the district clerk’s office.

Potential jurors are asked to contact the office at (903) 683-8751, ext. 12, for any cancelations.