Criminal trials may be delayed until August, September due to pandemic

VIDEO: Criminal trials may be delayed until August, September due to pandemic

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Criminal court trials could be on hold until August or September because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s according to solicitors in the Tri-County area.

Some guilty pleas and hearings have been held virtually during the pandemic. However that’s impossible to do with a trial because so many people would have to be in the courtroom together.

“Everybody is anxious to get trials going again but the issue is how to do it safely first, for jurors and for litigants, the victims, defendants,” ninth circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said Thursday.

“I think the kind of numbers they’re giving us that we’re allowed to have in any of our courtrooms in Dorchester County would not allow us to try a case right now,” Dorchester County First Assistant Solicitor Don Sorensen said Thursday.

Wilson says practicing social distancing would be an issue.

“That’s the issue, spacing is the big issue,” she said.

Wilson also is concerned how jurors would be protected from getting the virus.

“How to safely seat them and protect them while we’re handing them exhibits or passing exhibits,” she said. “Then when they go to deliberate how do they deliberate amongst each other with items of evidence.”

Sorensen says the possibility of people wearing masks in the courtroom has been discussed.

“That may be something that we’re required to do but I do think that would make it even more uncomfortable, attempting to actually try a case in that fashion,” he said.

Wilson says wearing masks could be an issue for jurors.

“Jurors also need to be able to see expressions and how people are reacting when they judge credibility,” she said.

Sorensen says when trials finally get the green light he hopes to try two murder cases first. Wilson also said she wants to first try cases that affect the public’s safety.

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