Legal

All Sumner County jury trials and in-person court proceedings have been suspended until the end of March per an order issued Jan. 15 by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

The order suspends all jury trials and in-person proceedings in all state and local courts, including the county’s general sessions, trial and juvenile courts as well as municipal courts, until March 31, “in light of the continued record number of COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations and deaths in Tennessee.”

Statewide there had been 687,751 reported cases and 8,430 deaths as of Monday, Jan. 18, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. In Sumner County, 18,262 positive cases have been reported and 232 deaths.

The high court’s order applies to all courts and court clerks’ offices except administrative courts within the executive branch and federal courts and federal court clerks’ offices located in Tennessee.

Under the terms of the order, the courts remain open, and judges are urged to work with local law enforcement and other county officials to make sure that the courthouse remains accessible so that essential constitutional functions and time-sensitive proceedings can still occur.

The county’s district attorneys’ office remains open, according to Assistant District Attorney Ron Blanton.

Blanton said he had four jury trials scheduled between now and March 31 - including a felony murder trial.

Cottontown resident Kayla Pauze, 28, is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 23 for the death of a two-year-old Gallatin child she was babysitting.

Blanton said that trial, as well as a home burglary case and two cases involving charges of felony possession of a handgun will have to be rescheduled.

Blanton said other prosecutors in his office are in the same boat.

The Tennessee Supreme Court first suspended all jury trials on Nov. 17. That order was scheduled to expire on Jan. 31.

A delay in getting defendants to trial generally benefits the defendant, Sumner County District Attorney General Ray Whitley said in early December.

“But we haven’t encountered anything that our office cannot deal with,” he added.