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First Jury Trial Held in the Circuit

SPALDING - I hope all has been well since my last column. We have been extremely busy in the courthouses, and I have excellent news to share with you all. After over a year without trials, we finally held the first jury trial in our Circuit in Spalding County! We are one of the few Circuits in the State to have done so.

This past week, we launched three weeks of jury trials in Spalding County, and on April 19th, we will begin two weeks of jury trials in Fayette. There are hundreds of cases still waiting to be tried, but I am so proud to tell you that we are getting started.

This was a collaborative effort among Judges, Court Services, my office, and defense attorneys. We worked together to focus on presenting the cases that would be most agreeable for a “trial run” in the new normal. For this reason, we did not attempt to try a murder case or crime involving a child. Those cases will be tried after we successfully conduct this round of jury trials. Instead, we focused on cases that could be tried in one or two days, which also did not require out-of-state witnesses. Our goal was to minimize any impact COVID might have should a problem arise mid-trial. It was a success. While trial looked very different than in years past in Spalding County, with masks, social distancing, and a converted Jury Assembly Room in the basement for our courtroom, we overcame these challenges and presented two cases.

The first case involved a possession of methamphetamine and resulted in a hung jury, as the jury could not reach a verdict, or a final decision as to guilty or not guilty. This means the case can be tried again later. The second case involved a charge for a large quantity of methamphetamine against two defendants. A Spalding County Jury convicted them of possessing the methamphetamine, and the Honorable Scott Ballard sentenced each to 10 years with the first 5 years to be served in prison. So many of the cases on this calendar involved the use and distribution of methamphetamine. After the conclusion of trials, in one of my later columns, I will be discussing methamphetamine and its effect on our communities. It’s a conversation that needs to occur.

Aside from the cases that were tried, dozens of other cases resolved that had been pending while we awaited reopening. As is often the case, when a defendant is out on bond, it is not until the risk of a conviction before a jury that he or she seriously considers accepting a plea offer or taking their case to trial. We have resolved hundreds of cases with guilty pleas, dismissals, entries into a pre-trial diversion program, or entry into an alternative court. It has been amazing to watch.

I am extremely proud of Chief Assistant District Attorney David Studdard, Assistant District Attorney Monique Harris, and my Spalding County Office for their hard work on these cases this week. I am also very proud of the citizens of Spalding County who reported for Jury Duty and sacrificed their time to allow our justice system to work. Without you all, our jobs would not be possible.

Next week, Fayette County steps up to the plate, and Spalding County continues to try cases. We are finally moving forward, and you can feel the energy in the courthouses.

I look forward to updating you on how much more progress we’ve made in a few weeks. Until then, be kind to one another and answer the call for Jury Duty.

Sincerely,
Marie Broder
District Attorney for the Griffin Judicial Circuit

Submitted 4.20.21
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