Jury Trials Suspended Due To COVID-19

South Carolina Chief Justice Don Beatty issued an order last week suspending all jury trials in the state amid rising COVID-19 cases. The order marks the second suspension of jury trials and is in effect indefinitely. The first suspension began this spring and ended late fall when the pandemic seemed to be coming under control.
“We expected this suspension, and we agree with the Chief that it’s just not safe to ask 75-100 people to be in a courtroom,” said Assistant Solicitor Shipp Daniel. “We have a lot of cases that need to be tried, a lot of defendants and victims who are waiting for their day in court. These suspensions have certainly set us back, but the safety of jurors, litigants and court staff is paramount. As soon as we are allowed to resume jury trials, we will be ready to go.”
Even with the suspension of jury trials, Daniel said some terms of General Sessions (criminal) Court have taken place via videoconferencing and have been productive with guilty pleas and other minor hearings. The October term of court was among the most productive terms ever, as more than 200 indictments were moved in four days.
Officials estimate that changes to court operations due to the pandemic have set court dockets back 12-18 months.