Jury Trials Set To Resume In Chattanooga Federal Court On Sept. 14

  • Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Jury trials are set to resume in Chattanooga Federal Court on Sept. 14 after a long hiatus due to the coronavirus.

Judge Travis McDonough is looking at a trial for one of four different defendants.

They include Corey Carlos Garrett, Calvin Wayne Hanks, Mark Daniel Allen or the civil case of Riverfront Commercial Center, LLC vs. Westfield Insurance Co.

Clerk of Court John Medearis said, "The judge conducting a jury trial will determine the number of jurors in accordance with the applicable civil or criminal federal rules and the discretion the judge has within the rules.  Appropriate measures will be taken to ensure the safety of all participants.  The measures will be communicated to the parties and potential jurors well in advance of trial." 

Each judge will fashion his own special restrictions and safety measures. For example, Federal Judge Ronnie Greer recently set down these jury rules for his courtroom:

Due to ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic that the country is experiencing, the following procedures will apply during the trial:

1. Prospective jurors will report at 8:30 a.m. on July 7 for orientation. Upon arrival at the James H. Quillen United States Courthouse, jurors will be provided with a mask and asked the following questions: (a) To the best of your knowledge, have you been exposed to COVID-19? and (b) Are you or any member of your household currently feeling ill with symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, congestion, or respiratory problems, or have you or any member of your household experienced these symptoms within the past two weeks? If any prospective juror answers “yes” to either question, the juror will be automatically excused and his or her service deferred to a later time. Jury selection will begin at 10:00 a.m.

2 Jurors must wear a mask at all times while in the courthouse, including in the courtroom, unless instructed otherwise by the Court. Jurors who prefer to wear a mask brought from home will be permitted to do so as long as the mask is free of controversial images or text. Jurors will also practice social distancing at all times (at least six feet of separation). Only one juror at a time shall use an elevator, and public access to an elevator will be briefly restricted when it is being used to transport a juror. Gloves, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes will be available for juror use. 2. All court staff, parties, witnesses, spectators, and attorneys shall wear masks and shall practice social distancing. Attorneys may remove their masks when questioning a juror during voir dire or a witness, or as otherwise permitted by the Court.

3. During the trial, jurors will enter and exit the courtroom through the door leading into the secure hallway behind the courtroom and be escorted to the jury assembly room during all breaks in the trial. During all breaks, jurors must continue to wear masks and practice social distancing. Only one juror at a time will be permitted in any restroom.

4. Jurors will be provided with disposable writing materials, including a notepad, which will be stored by the Court in a secure place overnight. Jurors will be permitted to take their notepads with them during deliberations. All writing materials and notepads will be destroyed after a verdict. The Court’s evidence presentation system will be used for all evidence presentation. 

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