Having justice served in criminal proceedings is going to take longer than expected following new guidelines by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court entered two new Administrative Orders that further extend restrictions on jury trials, grand juries, show cause dockets, judicial sales and in-person meetings of Kentucky Court of Justice committees, commissions, task forces and boards. This action was necessary to address the continued surge of COVID-19 cases across the commonwealth.
The new regulations are:
-Postponement of all jury trials until April 1st.
-Require grand juries to either by conducted remotely or suspended.
-Postpone all show cause dockets until April 1st.
-Require all judicial sales to be conducted either remotely or outside and in accordance with CDC guidelines.
The court has issued regulations since last March when the COVID outbreak began. No jury trials have been held in Clay County since that time causing a massive back log of cases.
In November, the court issued a suspension until February 1st. At that time, Commonwealth Attorney Gary Gregory announced there was no way he could properly conduct a grand jury hearing remotely.
“Reality is everybody doesn’t have internet access in these counties,” he said. “That along with confidentiality issues, I can’t in good conscious have a grand jury meet via Zoom or any electronic means.”
Gregory says he sees numerous pitfalls in conducting a grand jury hearing remotely.
“Someone could possibly hack a Zoom meeting,” he said. “What if information comes out in a remote proceeding against someone that proves to be not true and yet it gets out to the public and his/her life is destroyed. That’s just wrong and could violate the civil rights of an individual.”
The Commonwealth Attorney says the grand jury needs to be in person only.
“My duty is to prosecute the guilty and protect the innocent,” he said. “Our constitution says you have a right to confront your accuser. A grand jury needs to be in person to see the evidence presented, to hear the testimony of the accuser/accused. You can’t see the body language of an individual presenting evidence via Zoom or any other electronic means and that’s important to see for a grand jury when making a decision to indict or not.”