Jury trials may move
A District 30A Superior Court judge has issued an order condeming the Graham County Courthouse as unsafe and stipulating that future jury trials be held in Cherokee County.
Judge William H. Coward’s order mandates that Graham County bear the expense of transporting urors, deputies, county personnel, bailiffs and defendants to Murphy.
The order filed Aug. 28 contained the following findings:
1. “The Courthouse is not secure in relation to the modern-day threats of violence” (multiple entrances are not always monitored and the courtroom has windows facing the street);
2. Jurors have no place to go during breaks, which potentially exposes them to criminal defendants, witnesses and victims;
3. The jury room is too small to accommodate 12 persons, has no bathroom, and is not sound-proof;
4. The jury has no separate jury entrance or jury assembly room;
5. The courtroom is often inundated with noises from the street, jail below, air conditioning unit and steam pipes;
6. The Courthouse has only one courtroom;
7. The courtroom lacks adequate audio/visual equipment;
8. There is inadequate parking for jurors;
9. The Courthouse may not be ADA compliant. “There is no handicap access in the courtroom for jurors, witnesses, court personal and spectators.”
10. There is no room available for use by the Grand Jury, meaning the panel has to be transported elsewhere when a trial is underway.
The order leaves it up to “presiding judge on rotation” to decide whether to he’ll hear a case in Graham County or order proceedings moved to Murphy.
The order directs Graham County commissioners to estimate “the logistics and expenses” of moving a jury trial to Cherokee County. Graham County Manager Becky Garland has until Oct. 25 to provide that information.
Graham County faces considerable expense if a judge moves a trial out of Robbinsvlle.
For one thing, the order requires that the entire jury panel – which could number more than 100 prior to jury selection – be transported in “air conditioned and heated buses to Murphy” with at least one deputy on the bus. The county’s largest bus is a 21-passenger vehicle.
And the district attorney may also impose “additional burdens and expenses” incurred by testifying victims.